Study: Smokers Face Heart Risk
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) - Smokers who carry a gene already linked to smoking-related illnesses face about twice the risk of heart disease than smokers who don't carry it, researchers suggest.
The findings in the April issue of Atherosclerosis involved 1,290 people in Forsyth County, the suburbs of Minneapolis, Washington County, Md., and Jackson, Miss. Four hundred subjects had suffered heart attacks or were newly diagnosed with heart disease, while 890 served as controls.
Individuals without the gene GSTT1 had about a 60 percent greater risk of heart problems if they smoked while those with the gene had about a 180 percent greater risk, said study co-author James Pankow, a professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
``Among people who don't smoke, the gene seems to make no difference in heart disease,'' he said.
Researchers found the gene present in four-fifths of the subjects.
The results were somewhat surprising, said Dr. Richey Sharrett, senior scientific advisor for the epidemiology and biometry program at the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute in Washington, D.C.
Sharrett said Wednesday that similar studies focusing on the gene's role in smoking and cancer showed more varied results, but said the heart disease research's methodology was valid.
``If it were replicated, I think that it would provide ... important clues'' to the link between smoking and heart disease, he said.
The GSTT1 gene is considered an integral link in how the body processes the chemicals found in tobacco smoke. Pankow said the gene already has been linked to other smoking-related illnesses, such as bladder cancer.