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Drive to wean women off tobacco falters

Friday August 21st, 2009

Experts defended Britain's "give up smoking" campaigns yesterday after their success seemed to falter.

The numbers successfully giving up tobacco with National Health Service help slumped over the last year - especially among pregnant women, according to new figures.

Part of the reason was that two years ago laws against smoking at work and in public places were introduced - provoking many people to give up.

Just 8,641 pregnant women were reported to have successfully given up using the programme in the past year - a reduction of 16 per cent.

Janet Fyle, of the Royal College of Midwives, said the figures were "disappointing".

She said: "There is ample evidence on the impact of smoking on the health of the pregnant mother and child, and we advice all women who are pregnant or trying to conceive to do their best to give up smoking."

But Professor John Britton, chair of the Tobacco Advisory Group, said England has the best smoking-cessation support in the world.

"That a quarter of a million were successful represents up to 125,000 fewer deaths from tobacco-related diseases," he said. "There is no way the government could achieve this result so cost-effectively by any other means.

"No other country in the world is providing cessation services on the same scale and with the same level of success."

* Meanwhile research on genes and lung cancer has uncovered inherited DNA changes that increase the risk.

Professor Richard Houlston of the Institute of Cancer Research, London, UK, and colleagues looked at the genomes of 1,900 lung cancer patients. These were compared against 1,400 healthy individuals.

Changes in DNA that may be linked to a raised risk of lung cancer were identified. The findings were confirmed by examining the genes of a further 2,000 lung cancer patients.

Ultimately, the team found significant changes in three regions of the genome, on chromosomes 5, 6, and 15. Earlier work had identified the importance of chromosome 15, which these findings confirm. Details appear the journal Cancer Research.

Professor Houlston explains that these changes only increase lung cancer risk among people who smoke.

"The next step is to dig deeper to pin-point which gene, or genes in these regions, cause the increased risk of developing lung cancer and how they actually trigger this increase," he said.

Houlston, R.S. et al. Deciphering the impact of common genetic variation on lung cancer risk: A genome-wide association study. Cancer Research, published online August 15, 2009

Tags: Cancer | Childbirth and Pregnancy | Drug and Alcohol Abuse | Genetics | Respiratory | UK News | Women’s Health & Gynaecology

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