August 7, 2012

Ancestry impacts smoking risk for lungs

Smoking is more detrimental to lung function in individuals with high proportions of African ancestry.

Smoking tobacco reduces lung function. African Americans have lower lung function compared to European Americans, but it is unclear if African ancestry modifies smoking’s impact on lung function.


Melinda Aldrich, Ph.D., MPH, assistant professor of Thoracic Surgery, and colleagues evaluated lung function, tobacco smoking exposure and genetic ancestry in a large population of African Americans who are being followed in two ongoing studies (Health ABC, started in 1997, and CARDIA, started in 1985). They found that African Americans with a high proportion of African ancestry had lower lung function (measured by forced expiratory volume in one second, FEV1) per pack-year of smoking at baseline compared to individuals with lower African ancestry. They also found an interaction between smoking and African ancestry on the rate of FEV1 decline.

The findings, reported June 21 in PLoS ONE, suggest that lung function depends on smoking status and the proportion of individual African ancestry. The studies highlight the importance of smoking cessation programs for populations at the greatest risk of reduced lung function.

This research was supported by grants and contracts from the National Institutes of Health (HL078885, AI077439, HL088133, HL074104, AI079139, AI061774, HL079055, DK064695, HL093023, HL092601, N01-AG-6-2101, N01-AG-6-2103, N01-AG-6-2106, N01-HC-48047 through 48050, N01-HC-95095). The work also was supported by the Vanderbilt Clinical and Translational Research Scholars Program, the Flight Attendant Medical Research Institute (FAMRI), the American Asthma Foundation and the Sandler Foundation.