PHILADELPHIA -- Mexican-American teens who were considered more susceptible to smoking were 2.6 times more likely to experiment with cigarettes than their peers who expressed commitment to never smoke, according to a report published in the tobacco focus issue of Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.
Susceptibility is a specific term in behavioral science that refers to a youth's inability to unequivocally say "no" when asked if they would ever take up smoking. Susceptibility combines intention to smoke and peer influence, two of the strongest risk factors for experimenting with cigarettes. Research has shown that experimentation leads to dependent smoking and that most smokers start in their teenage years.
Lead author Anna Wilkinson, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Epidemiology at the University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, is working with funding from the 1999 Master Tobacco Settlement and the National Cancer Institute to study smoking rates and risk among Mexican-American teens. A companion paper on the effect of smoking imagery in movies is also included in the December issue of Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.
"Overall, Mexican-American youth report much higher experimentation rates than white American youth," said Wilkinson. "It is important to understand the risk factors associated with the progression from being a committed never smoker to an experimenter so that we can develop more effective prevention programs."
For five years, Wilkinson and colleagues followed 964 Mexican origin participants between 11 and 13 years old who had never smoked. Of those deemed susceptible at the start of the study, 43 percent reported experimenting by the end of the study compared with 15 percent of those who were not considered susceptible.
"Susceptibility was larger than any of the other known risk factors such as being older, having multiple school discipline problems, living with a smoker or even having a positive view of the effect smoking can have on your social life," said Wilkinson. "Our results suggest that tailoring smoking prevention programs by a youth's susceptibility status may increase the efficacy of prevention efforts among Mexican origin youth."
Wilkinson said further research would focus on what turns an experimenter into a habitual user. This research is part of a larger, population-based study of more than 19,000 Mexican American families being conducted at M. D. Anderson.
The mission of the American Association for Cancer Research is to prevent and cure cancer. Founded in 1907, the AACR is the world's oldest and largest professional organization dedicated to advancing cancer research. The membership includes 30,000 basic, translational and clinical researchers; health care professionals; and cancer survivors and advocates in the United States and nearly 90 other countries. The AACR marshals the full spectrum of expertise from the cancer community to accelerate progress in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer through high-quality scientific and educational programs. It funds innovative, meritorious research grants, research fellowship and career development awards. The AACR Annual Meeting attracts more than 16,000 participants who share the latest discoveries and developments in the field. Special conferences throughout the year present novel data across a wide variety of topics in cancer research, treatment and patient care. The AACR publishes six major peer-reviewed journals: Cancer Research; Clinical Cancer Research; Molecular Cancer Therapeutics; Molecular Cancer Research; Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention; and Cancer Prevention Research. The AACR also publishes CR, a magazine for cancer survivors and their families, patient advocates, physicians and scientists. CR provides a forum for sharing essential, evidence-based information and perspectives on progress in cancer research, survivorship and advocacy.