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Least Healthy More Apt to Think Genes Explain Disease Risk
Date:6/13/2010

Survey also found these people were not as interested in information on lifestyle changes

FRIDAY, June 11 (HealthDay News) -- A new survey shows that the recent deluge of scientific discoveries of links between specific genes and many chronic diseases might be providing the least healthy people with something they don't need: an excuse for their medical woes.

"We wanted to know if people are going to use genetics as a way to kind of get off the hook, rather than change their behavior and be healthy," explained study co-author Suzanne C. O'Neill, an assistant professor with the Cancer Control Program at Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. "But the bottom line is that most people aren't doing that. It's only when you look at people with a number of behavioral risk factors that you run into trouble," she said.

"People, for example, who are smokers and have a poor diet and don't exercise as much as they should. Those people are more likely to think that diseases are caused by genetics, and are not interested in information on behavioral change. So, the people we want to reach the most are the ones we are going to have the most trouble with," O'Neill added.

O'Neill, who conducted her research while a postdoctoral student at the social and behavioral research branch of the National Human Genome Research Institute at the U.S. National Institutes of Health, and colleagues reported the survey results in the June 8 online edition of the Annals of Behavioral Medicine.

According to the CDC Foundation, humans are 99.9 percent identical, genetically speaking. It is the minute 0.1 percent remainder that accounts for differences ranging from traits as innocuous as hair color to predispositions for a wide variety of diseases.

With this in mind, the authors set out to assess behavior-related health risk by asking almost 2,000 survey respondents about their dai
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