'Bad habits' study charts health risks

By Nigel Hawkes, science editor
Copyright 1998 Times (London)
September 24, 1998

Everyone knows somebody who smoked, drank, and ate excessively, yet lived to a ripe old age. Yesterday Cambridge University researchers launched a 15-year study to find out why.

The team will follow the fortunes of 25,000 people from the Norwich area whose blood samples and health histories were collected for an earlier study.

"The group will be followed up through general practice and hospital records over the next ten to 15 years," said Nick Day, the Cambridge-based Director of the Institute of Public Health.

"We have got extensive lifestyle information on them and will be following them up to see what their history of chronic disease is. This is determined to a great extent by lifestyle factors such as smoking, but whether people actually become ill also depends heavily on their genetic make-up. We want to see how well one can identify patients at risk."

Initial funding of 300,000 [pounds] from the Medical Research Council has enabled the team to start work. If the genes that affect the risk faced by any individual can be identified, it should be possible to tell them more precisely how badly they are likely to be affected by indulging in "bad" habits, Professor Day said.

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