MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Dennis Drayna, PhD
Chief of the Laboratory of Communication Disorders and the Section on Genetics of Communication Disorders
National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders
Part of the National Institutes of Health
MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?
Response: In the United States, there are striking racial differences in the rate of menthol cigarette use. Tobacco use is a major preventable source of morbidity and mortality in the population, and menthol cigarette use by African Americans represents an important issue for attempts to address minority health disparities.
There have been many studies that have documented the role of inherited factors that contribute to smoking or tobacco use. However, no studies have examined the role of genetic factors specifically in menthol tobacco use. The preference for menthol cigarettes among African Americans has previously been attributed to cultural factors or industry advertising practices directed at this group.
In our study, we asked whether genetic factors could explain why African-American smokers choose menthol cigarettes over non-menthol cigarettes. Our initial hypothesis was that variation in genes that encode the known menthol receptors was important in this difference, although we designed our study to look at all 21,000 protein-coding genes in the genome.