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1.  Supporting Patients Treated for Prostate Cancer: A Video Vignette Study With an Email-Based Educational Program in General Practice 
Men who have been treated for prostate cancer in Australia can consult their general practitioner (GP) for advice about symptoms or side effects at any time following treatment. However, there is no evidence that such men are consistently advised by GPs and patients experience substantial unmet need for reassurance and advice.
The intent of the study was to evaluate a brief, email-based educational program for GPs to manage standardized patients presenting with symptoms or side effects months or years after prostate cancer treatment.
GPs viewed six pairs of video vignettes of actor-patients depicting men who had been treated for prostate cancer. The actor-patients presented problems that were attributable to the treatment of cancer. In Phase 1, GPs indicated their diagnosis and stated if they would prescribe, refer, or order tests based on that diagnosis. These responses were compared to the management decisions for those vignettes as recommended by a team of experts in prostate cancer. After Phase 1, all the GPs were invited to participate in an email-based education program (Spaced Education) focused on prostate cancer. Participants received feedback and could compare their progress and their performance with other participants in the study. In Phase 2, all GPs, regardless of whether they had completed the program, were invited to view another set of six video vignettes with men presenting similar problems to Phase 1. They again offered a diagnosis and stated if they would prescribe, refer, or order tests based on that diagnosis.
In total, 64 general practitioners participated in the project, 57 GPs participated in Phase 1, and 45 in Phase 2. The Phase 1 education program was completed by 38 of the 57 (59%) participants. There were no significant differences in demographics between those who completed the program and those who did not. Factors determining whether management of cases was consistent with expert opinion were number of sessions worked per week (OR 0.78, 95% CI 0.67-0.90), site of clinical practice (remote practice, OR 2.25, 95% CI 1.01-5.03), number of patients seen per week (150 patients or more per week, OR 10.66, 95% CI 3.40-33.48), and type of case viewed. Completion of the Spaced Education did impact whether patient management was consistent with expert opinion (not completed, OR 0.88, 95% CI 0.5-1.56).
The management of standardized patients by GPs was particularly unlikely to be consistent with expert opinion in the management of impotence and bony metastasis. There was no evidence from this standardized patient study that Spaced Education had an impact on the management of patients in this context. However, the program was not completed by all participants. Practitioners with a greater clinical load were more likely to manage cases as per expert opinion.
PMCID: PMC3961707  PMID: 24571952
medical education; prostate cancer; general practice; email; video
2.  Doctors as patients: postal survey examining consultants and general practitioners adherence to guidelines 
BMJ : British Medical Journal  1999;319(7210):605-608.
To examine the adherence by senior NHS medical staff to the BMA guidelines on the ethical responsibilities of doctors towards themselves and their families.
Postal semistructured questionnaire.
Four randomly selected NHS trusts and three local medical committees in South Thames region.
Consultants and principals in general practice.
Main outcome measures
Personal use of health services.
The response rate was 64% (724) for general practitioners and 72% (427) for consultants after three mailings. Most (1106, 96%) respondents were registered with a general practitioner, although little use was made of their services. 159 (26%) general practitioners were registered with a general practitioner in their own practice and 80 (11%) admitted to looking after members of their family. 73 (24%) consultants would never see their general practitioner before obtaining consultant advice. Most consultants and general practitioners admitted to prescribing for themselves and their family. Responses to vignettes for different health problems indicated a general reluctance to take time off, but there were differences between consultants and general practitioners and by sex. Views on improvements needed included the possibility of a “doctor’s doctor,” access to out of area secondary care, an occupational health service for general practitioners, and regular health check ups.
The guidelines are largely not being followed, perhaps because of the difficulties of obtaining access to general practitioners outside working hours. The occupational health service should be expanded and a general practitioner service for NHS staff piloted.
Key messagesSenior doctors are not following the BMA guidelines on looking after their own and their families’ healthThey seem very reluctant to consult their general practitioner They prefer to self treat, carry on working, and consult informallyPotential barriers to access should be removed in order to improve their health
PMCID: PMC28211  PMID: 10473473
3.  Referring patients to specialists: A structured vignette survey of Australian and British GPs 
In Australia and in the United Kingdom (UK) access to specialists is sanctioned by General Practitioners (GPs). It is important to understand how practitioners determine which patients warrant referral.
A self-administered structured vignette postal survey of General Practitioners in Western Australia and the United Kingdom. Sixty-four vignettes describing patients with colorectal symptoms were constructed encompassing six clinical details. Nine vignettes, chosen at random, were presented to each individual. Respondents were asked if they would refer the patient to a specialist and how urgently. Logistic regression and parametric tests were used to analyse the data
We received 260 completed questionnaires. 58% of 'cancer vignettes' were selected for 'urgent' referral. 1632/2367 or 69% of all vignettes were selected for referral. After adjusting for clustering the model suggests that 38.4% of the variability is explained by all the clinical variables as well as the age and experience of the respondents. 1012 or 42.8 % of vignettes were referred 'urgently'. After adjusting for clustering the data suggests that 31.3 % of the variability is explained by the model. The age of the respondents, the location of the practice and all the clinical variables were significant in the decision to refer urgently.
GPs' referral decisions for patients with lower bowel symptoms are similar in the two countries. We question the wisdom of streaming referrals from primary care without a strong evidence base and an effective intervention for implementing guidelines. We conclude that implementation must take into account the profile of patients but also the characteristics of GPs and referral policies.
PMCID: PMC2262087  PMID: 18194578
4.  Patients with urinary tract infection: proposed management strategies of general practitioners, microbiologists and urologists. 
BACKGROUND. It is difficult to implement change in general practice. It is not known how best to conduct effective continuing medical education in general practice. General practitioners' criteria for good clinical practice vary and it is unknown whether systematic education by hospital specialists could be expected to reduce variation between general practitioners. AIM. A study was undertaken to describe general practitioners', microbiologists' and urologists' strategies for diagnosis, treatment, and follow up of female patients with symptoms of urinary tract infection, a common reason for consultation in general practice. The findings of the study were to be used as a base upon which to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of using hospital specialists as a resource in general practitioners' peer group based continuing medical education. METHOD. Three vignettes together with several proposals for diagnosis, treatment and follow up were presented in a questionnaire to general practitioners, microbiologists and urologists in Denmark. The case histories concerned three female patients (aged 10, 30 and 60 years) who consulted their general practitioner for advice. The female patients were otherwise healthy and well known to the practice. General practitioners', microbiologists' and urologists' recommendations for good clinical practice were compared. RESULTS. A total of 154 general practitioners (77%), 45 microbiologists (51%) and 54 urologists (61%) who were eligible for the study responded to the questionnaire. There was considerable variation in the management strategies proposed by doctors within each specialty and between the specialties. Microbiologists and urologists were more likely to suggest treating the 30-year-old woman by giving advice and a prescription by telephone compared with their general practitioner colleagues. Conversely, the microbiologists and urologists were more likely to suggest asking the 10- and 60-year-old patients to attend the clinic for examination compared with the general practitioners. The general practitioners reported asking the patients to return for follow up more commonly than the hospital specialists. CONCLUSION. Large variation in suggested strategies for diagnosis, treatment and follow up was shown both within and between specialties. Continuing medical education of general practitioners based on small peer group discussions using hospital specialists as a group resource would not necessarily reduce variation in clinical practice between general practitioners. A need for evidence-based rather than consensus-directed guidelines would be needed in order to reduce variation in clinical practice between doctors.
PMCID: PMC1239439  PMID: 8554842
5.  Tobacco Company Efforts to Influence the Food and Drug Administration-Commissioned Institute of Medicine Report Clearing the Smoke: An Analysis of Documents Released through Litigation 
PLoS Medicine  2013;10(5):e1001450.
Stanton Glantz and colleagues investigate efforts by tobacco companies to influence Clearing the Smoke, a 2001 Institute of Medicine report on harm reduction tobacco products.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Spurred by the creation of potential modified risk tobacco products, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) commissioned the Institute of Medicine (IOM) to assess the science base for tobacco “harm reduction,” leading to the 2001 IOM report Clearing the Smoke. The objective of this study was to determine how the tobacco industry organized to try to influence the IOM committee that prepared the report.
Methods and Findings
We analyzed previously secret tobacco industry documents in the University of California, San Francisco Legacy Tobacco Documents Library, and IOM public access files. (A limitation of this method includes the fact that the tobacco companies have withheld some possibly relevant documents.) Tobacco companies considered the IOM report to have high-stakes regulatory implications. They developed and implemented strategies with consulting and legal firms to access the IOM proceedings. When the IOM study staff invited the companies to provide information on exposure and disease markers, clinical trial design for safety and efficacy, and implications for initiation and cessation, tobacco company lawyers, consultants, and in-house regulatory staff shaped presentations from company scientists. Although the available evidence does not permit drawing cause-and-effect conclusions, and the IOM may have come to the same conclusions without the influence of the tobacco industry, the companies were pleased with the final report, particularly the recommendations for a tiered claims system (with separate tiers for exposure and risk, which they believed would ease the process of qualifying for a claim) and license to sell products comparable to existing conventional cigarettes (“substantial equivalence”) without prior regulatory approval. Some principles from the IOM report, including elements of the substantial equivalence recommendation, appear in the 2009 Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act.
Tobacco companies strategically interacted with the IOM to win several favored scientific and regulatory recommendations.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Up to half of tobacco users will die of cancer, lung disease, heart disease, stroke, or another tobacco-related disease. Cigarettes and other tobacco products cause disease because they expose their users to nicotine and numerous other toxic chemicals. Tobacco companies have been working to develop a “safe” cigarette for more than half a century. Initially, their attention focused on cigarettes that produced lower tar and nicotine yields in machine-smoking tests. These products were perceived as “safer” products by the public and scientists for many years, but it is now known that the use of low-yield cigarettes can actually expose smokers to higher levels of toxins than standard cigarettes. More recently, the tobacco companies have developed other products (for example, products that heat aerosols of nicotine, rather than burning the tobacco) that claim to reduce harm and the risk of tobacco-related disease, but they can only market these modified risk tobacco products in the US after obtaining Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval. In 1999, the FDA commissioned the US Institute of Medicine (IOM, an influential source of independent expert advice on medical issues) to assess the science base for tobacco “harm reduction.” In 2001, the IOM published its report Clearing the Smoke: Assessing the Science Base for Tobacco Harm and Reduction, which, although controversial, set the tone for the development and regulation of tobacco products in the US, particularly those claiming to be less dangerous, in subsequent years.
Why Was This Study Done?
Tobacco companies have a long history of working to shape scientific discussions and agendas. For example, they have produced research results designed to “create controversy” about the dangers of smoking and secondhand smoke. In this study, the researchers investigate how tobacco companies organized to try to influence the IOM committee that prepared the Clearing the Smoke report on modified risk tobacco products by analyzing tobacco industry and IOM documents.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers searched the Legacy Tobacco Documents Library (a collection of internal tobacco industry documents released as a result of US litigation cases) for documents outlining how tobacco companies tried to influence the IOM Committee to Assess the Science Base for Tobacco Harm Reduction and created a timeline of events from the 1,000 or so documents they retrieved. They confirmed and supplemented this timeline using information in 80 files that detailed written interactions between the tobacco companies and the IOM committee, which they obtained through a public records access request. Analysis of these documents indicates that the tobacco companies considered the IOM report to have important regulatory implications, that they developed and implemented strategies with consulting and legal firms to access the IOM proceedings, and that tobacco company lawyers, consultants, and regulatory staff shaped presentations to the IOM committee by company scientists on various aspects of tobacco harm reduction products. The analysis also shows that tobacco companies were pleased with the final report, particularly its recommendation that tobacco products can be marketed with exposure or risk reduction claims provided the products substantially reduce exposure and provided the behavioral and health consequences of these products are determined in post-marketing surveillance and epidemiological studies (“tiered testing”) and its recommendation that, provided no claim of reduced exposure or risk is made, new products comparable to existing conventional cigarettes (“substantial equivalence”) can be marketed without prior regulatory approval.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that tobacco companies used their legal and regulatory staff to access the IOM committee that advised the FDA on modified risk tobacco products and that they used this access to deliver specific, carefully formulated messages designed to serve their business interests. Although these findings provide no evidence that the efforts of tobacco companies influenced the IOM committee in any way, they show that the companies were satisfied with the final IOM report and its recommendations, some of which have policy implications that continue to reverberate today. The researchers therefore call for the FDA and other regulatory bodies to remember that they are dealing with companies with a long history of intentionally misleading the public when assessing the information presented by tobacco companies as part of the regulatory process and to actively protect their public-health policies from the commercial interests of the tobacco industry.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
This study is further discussed in a PLOS Medicine Perspective by Thomas Novotny
The World Health Organization provides information about the dangers of tobacco (in several languages); for information about the tobacco industry's influence on policy, see the 2009 World Health Organization report Tobacco interference with tobacco control
A PLOS Medicine Research Article by Heide Weishaar and colleagues describes tobacco company efforts to undermine the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, an international instrument for tobacco control
Wikipedia has a page on tobacco harm reduction (note: Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
The IOM report Clearing the Smoke: Assessing the Science Base for Tobacco Harm Reduction is available to read online
The Legacy Tobacco Documents Library is a public, searchable database of tobacco company internal documents detailing their advertising, manufacturing, marketing, sales, and scientific activities
The University of California, San Francisco Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education is the focal point for University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) scientists in disciplines ranging from the molecular biology of nicotine addiction through political science who combine their efforts to eradicate the use of tobacco and tobacco-induced cancer and other diseases worldwide
SmokeFree, a website provided by the UK National Health Service, offers advice on quitting smoking and includes personal stories from people who have stopped smoking, from the US National Cancer Institute, offers online tools and resources to help people quit smoking
PMCID: PMC3665841  PMID: 23723740
6.  Smoking and high-risk mammographic parenchymal patterns: a case-control study 
Breast Cancer Research  1999;2(1):59-63.
Current smoking was strongly and inversely associated with high-risk patterns, after adjustment for concomitant risk factors. Relative to never smokers, current smokers were significantly less likely to have a high-risk pattern. Similar results were obtained when the analysis was confined to postmenopausal women. Past smoking was not related to the mammographic parenchymal patterns. The overall effect in postmenopausal women lost its significance when adjusted for other risk factors for P2/DY patterns that were found to be significant in the present study, although the results are still strongly suggestive. The present data indicate that adjustment for current smoking status is important when evaluating the relationship between mammographic parenchymal pattern and breast cancer risk. They also indicate that smoking is a prominent potential confounder when analyzing effects of other risk factors such as obesity-related variables. It appears that parenchymal patterns may act as an informative biomarker of the effect of cigarette smoking on breast cancer risk.
Overall, epidemiological studies [1,2,3,4] have reported no substantial association between cigarette smoking and the risk of breast cancer. Some studies [5,6,7] reported a significant increase of breast cancer risk among smokers. In recent studies that addressed the association between breast cancer and cigarette smoking, however, there was some suggestion of a decreased risk [8,9,10], especially among current smokers, ranging from approximately 10 to 30% [9,10]. Brunet et al [11] reported that smoking might reduce the risk of breast cancer by 44% in carriers of BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutations. Wolfe [12] described four different mammographic patterns created by variations in the relative amounts of fat, epithelial and connective tissue in the breast, designated N1, P1, P2 and DY. Women with either P2 or DY pattern are considered at greater risk for breast cancer than those with N1 or P1 pattern [12,13,14,15]. There are no published studies that assessed the relationship between smoking and mammographic parenchymal patterns.
To evaluate whether mammographic parenchymal patterns as classified by Wolfe, which have been positively associated with breast cancer risk, are affected by smoking. In this case-control study, nested within the European Prospective Investigation on Cancer in Norfolk (EPIC-Norfolk) cohort [16], the association between smoking habits and mammographic parenchymal patterns are examined. The full results will be published elsewhere.
Study subjects were members of the EPIC cohort in Norwich who also attended the prevalence screening round at the Norwich Breast Screening Centre between November 1989 and December 1997, and were free of breast cancer at that screening. Cases were defined as women with a P2/DY Wolfe's mammographic parenchymal pattern on the prevalence screen mammograms. A total of 203 women with P2/DY patterns were identified as cases and were individually matched by date of birth (within 1 year) and date of prevalence screening (within 3 months) with 203 women with N1/P1 patterns who served as control individuals.
Two views, the mediolateral and craniocaudal mammograms, of both breasts were independently reviewed by two of the authors (ES and RW) to determine the Wolfe mammographic parenchymal pattern.
Considerable information on health and lifestyle factors was available from the EPIC Health and Lifestyle Questionnaire [16]. In the present study we examined the subjects' personal history of benign breast diseases, menstrual and reproductive factors, oral contraception and hormone replacement therapy, smoking, and anthropometric information such as body mass index and waist:hip ratio.
Odds ratios (ORs) and their 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were calculated by conditional logistic regression [17], and were adjusted for possible confounding factors.
The characteristics of the cases and controls are presented in Table 1. Cases were leaner than controls. A larger percentage of cases were nulliparous, premenopausal, current hormone replacement therapy users, had a personal history of benign breast diseases, and had had a hysterectomy. A larger proportion of controls had more than three births and were current smokers.
Table 2 shows the unadjusted and adjusted OR estimates for Wolfe's high-risk mammographic parenchymal patterns and smoking in the total study population and in postmenopausal women separately. Current smoking was strongly and inversely associated with high-risk patterns, after adjustment for concomitant risk factors. Relative to never smokers, current smokers were significantly less likely to have a high-risk pattern (OR 0.37, 95% CI 0.14-0.94). Similar results were obtained when the analysis was confined to postmenopausal women. Past smoking was not related to mammographic parenchymal patterns. The overall effect in postmenopausal women lost its significance when adjusted for other risk factors for P2/DY patterns that were found to be significant in the present study, although the results were still strongly suggestive. There was no interaction between cigarette smoking and body mass index.
In the present study we found a strong inverse relationship between current smoking and high-risk mammographic parenchymal patterns of breast tissue as classified by Wolfe [12]. These findings are not completely unprecedented; Greendale et al [18] found a reduced risk of breast density in association with smoking, although the magnitude of the reduction was unclear. The present findings suggest that this reduction is large.
Recent studies [9,10] have suggested that breast cancer risk may be reduced among current smokers. In a multicentre Italian case-control study, Braga et al [10] found that, relative to nonsmokers, current smokers had a reduced risk of breast cancer (OR 0.84, 95% CI 0.7-1.0). These findings were recently supported by Gammon et al [9], who reported that breast cancer risk in younger women (younger than 45 years) may be reduced among current smokers who began smoking at an early age (OR 0.59, 95% CI 0.41-0.85 for age 15 years or younger) and among long-term smokers (OR 0.70, 95% CI 0.52-0.94 for those who had smoked for 21 years or more).
The possible protective effect of smoking might be due to its anti-oestrogenic effect [1,2,19]. Recently there has been renewed interest in the potential effect of smoking on breast cancer risk, and whether individuals may respond differently on the basis of differences in metabolism of bioproducts of smoking [20,21]. Different relationships between smoking and breast cancer risk have been suggested that are dependent on the rapid or slow status of acetylators of aromatic amines [20,21]. More recent studies [22,23], however, do not support these findings.
The present study design minimized the opportunity for bias to influence the findings. Because subjects were unaware of their own case-control status, the possibility of recall bias in reporting smoking status was minimized. Systematic error in the assessment of mammograms was avoided because reading was done without knowledge of the risk factor data. Furthermore, the associations observed are unlikely to be explained by the confounding effect of other known breast cancer risk factors, because we adjusted for these in the analysis. We did not have information on passive smoking status, however, which has recently been reported to be a possible confounder [5,6,21,24].
The present data indicate that adjustment for current smoking status is important when evaluating the relationship between mammographic parenchymal pattern and breast cancer risk. They also indicate smoking as a prominent potential confounder when analyzing effects of other risk factors such as obesity-related variables. It seems that parenchymal patterns may act as an informative biomarker of the effect of cigarette smoking on breast cancer risk.
PMCID: PMC13911  PMID: 11056684
mammography; screening; smoking; Wolfe's parenchymal patterns
7.  Sex and attitude: a randomized vignette study of the management of depression by general practitioners. 
BACKGROUND: The management and detection of depression varies widely, and the causes of variation are incompletely understood. AIMS: To describe and explain general practitioners' (GPs') current practice in the recognition and management of depression in young adults, their attitudes towards depression, and to investigate associations of GP characteristics and patient sex with management. METHOD: All GP principals in the Greater Glasgow Health Board were randomized to receive questionnaires with vignettes describing increasingly severe symptoms of depression in either male or female patients, and asked to indicate which clinical options they would be likely to take. The Depression Attitude Questionnaire was used to elicit GP attitudes. RESULTS: As the severity of vignette symptoms increased, GPs responded by changing their prescribing and referral patterns. For the most severe vignette, the majority of GPs would prescribe drugs (76.4%) and refer the patient for further help (73.7%). Male and female patients were treated differently: GPs were less likely to ask female patients than male patients to attend a follow-up consultation (odds ratio [OR] = 0.55), and female GPs were less likely to refer female patients (OR = 0.33). GPs with a pessimistic view of depression, measured using the 'inevitable course of depression' attitude scale, were less willing to be actively involved in its treatment, being less likely to discuss a non-physical cause of symptoms (OR = 0.77) or to explore social factors in moderately severe cases (OR = 0.68). CONCLUSIONS: Accepting the limitations of the method, GPs appear to respond appropriately to increasingly severe symptoms of depression, although variation in management exists. Educational programmes should be developed with the aim of enhancing GP attitudes towards depression, and the effects on detection and management of depression should be rigorously evaluated.
PMCID: PMC1313311  PMID: 10622010
8.  Video Consultation Use by Australian General Practitioners: Video Vignette Study 
There is unequal access to health care in Australia, particularly for the one-third of the population living in remote and rural areas. Video consultations delivered via the Internet present an opportunity to provide medical services to those who are underserviced, but this is not currently routine practice in Australia. There are advantages and shortcomings to using video consultations for diagnosis, and general practitioners (GPs) have varying opinions regarding their efficacy.
The aim of this Internet-based study was to explore the attitudes of Australian GPs toward video consultation by using a range of patient scenarios presenting different clinical problems.
Overall, 102 GPs were invited to view 6 video vignettes featuring patients presenting with acute and chronic illnesses. For each vignette, they were asked to offer a differential diagnosis and to complete a survey based on the theory of planned behavior documenting their views on the value of a video consultation.
A total of 47 GPs participated in the study. The participants were younger than Australian GPs based on national data, and more likely to be working in a larger practice. Most participants (72%-100%) agreed on the differential diagnosis in all video scenarios. Approximately one-third of the study participants were positive about video consultations, one-third were ambivalent, and one-third were against them. In all, 91% opposed conducting a video consultation for the patient with symptoms of an acute myocardial infarction. Inability to examine the patient was most frequently cited as the reason for not conducting a video consultation. Australian GPs who were favorably inclined toward video consultations were more likely to work in larger practices, and were more established GPs, especially in rural areas. The survey results also suggest that the deployment of video technology will need to focus on follow-up consultations.
Patients with minor self-limiting illnesses and those with medical emergencies are unlikely to be offered access to a GP by video. The process of establishing video consultations as routine practice will need to be endorsed by senior members of the profession and funding organizations. Video consultation techniques will also need to be taught in medical schools.
PMCID: PMC3713911  PMID: 23782753
videoconferencing; general practice; patient appointments; health care
9.  Mental health literacy and attitudes in a Swedish community sample – Investigating the role of personal experience of mental health care 
BMC Public Health  2008;8:8.
Mental ill health is a common condition in the general population, yet only about half of those with a mental disorder have treatment contact. Personal experience may affect attitudes, which in turn influence the help-seeking process. This study investigated differences in mental health literacy and attitudes among mentally healthy persons and in persons with symptoms of mental illness with and without treatment contact.
A postal screening questionnaire was sent to a random sample of the general population aged 20–64 in the county of Skaraborg, Sweden in order to ascertain mental health status and history of treatment contact; 3538 responded (49%). Face-to-face interviews were carried out in random sub samples of mentally healthy persons (n = 128) and in mentally ill persons with (n = 125) and without (n = 105) mental health care contact. Mental health literacy and attitudes to treatment were assessed using questions based on a vignette depicting a person with depression. Past month mental disorder was diagnosed according to the Schedule for Clinical Assessment in Neuropsychiatry (SCAN).
Two thirds failed to recognize depression in a vignette; recognition was equally poor in mentally healthy persons and in persons with symptoms of mental illness with and without treatment contact. In response to an open-ended question concerning appropriate interventions, one third suggested counselling and only one percent proposed antidepressant treatment. Again, proportions were similar in all groups. Persons with a history of mental health contact more often suggested that a GP would provide the best form of help. When presented with a list of possible interventions, those with a history of mental health contact were more positive to medical interventions such as antidepressants, hypnotics, and inpatient psychiatric treatment. When asked about the prognosis for the condition described in the vignette, persons with treatment contact were less likely to believe in full recovery without intervention; mentally ill without treatment contact were more optimistic.
Mental health literacy, specially concerning attitudes towards interventions is associated with personal history of mental health care.
PMCID: PMC2254613  PMID: 18184424
10.  Why Reassurance Fails in Patients with Unexplained Symptoms—An Experimental Investigation of Remembered Probabilities 
PLoS Medicine  2006;3(8):e269.
Providing reassurance is one of physicians' most frequently used verbal interventions. However, medical reassurance can fail or even have negative effects. This is frequently the case in patients with medically unexplained symptoms. It is hypothesized that these patients are more likely than patients from other groups to incorrectly recall the likelihoods of medical explanations provided by doctors.
Methods and Findings
Thirty-three patients with medically unexplained symptoms, 22 patients with major depression, and 30 healthy controls listened to an audiotaped medical report, as well as to two control reports. After listening to the reports, participants were asked to rate what the doctor thinks the likelihood is that the complaints are caused by a specific medical condition.
Although the doctor rejected most of the medical explanations for the symptoms in his verbal report, the patients with medically unexplained complaints remembered a higher likelihood for medical explanations for their symptoms. No differences were found between patients in the other groups, and for the control conditions. When asked to imagine that the reports were applicable to themselves, patients with multiple medical complaints reported more concerns about their health state than individuals in the other groups.
Physicians should be aware that patients with medically unexplained symptoms recall the likelihood of medical causes for their complaints incorrectly. Therefore, physicians should verify correct understanding by using check-back questions and asking for summaries, to improve the effect of reassurance.
Those patients for whom there is no medical explanation for their symptoms are likely to have more difficulty than other patients in remembering information intended to reassure them about their condition.
Editors' Summary
Being told by the doctor that that niggling headache or persistent stomach ache is not caused by a medical condition reassures most patients. But for some—those with a history of medically unexplained complaints—being told that tests have revealed no underlying cause for their symptoms provides little or no reassurance. Such patients have what is sometimes called “somatization syndrome.” In somatization, mental factors such as stress manifest themselves as physical symptoms. Patients with somatization syndrome start to report multiple medically unexplained symptoms as young adults. These symptoms, which change over time, include pain at different sites in the body and digestive, reproductive, and nervous system problems. What causes this syndrome is unknown and there is no treatment other than helping patients to control their symptoms.
Why Was This Study Done?
Patients with medically unexplained complaints make up a substantial and expensive part of the workload of general medical staff. Part of this expense is because patients with somatization syndrome are not reassured by their medical practitioners telling them there is no physical cause for their symptoms, which leads to requests for further tests. It is unclear why medical reassurance fails in these patients, but if this puzzle could be solved, it might help doctors to deal better with them. In this study, the researchers tested the idea that these patients do not accept medical reassurance because they incorrectly remember what their doctors have told them about the likelihood that specific medical conditions could explain their symptoms.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers recruited patients with medically unexplained symptoms and, for comparison, patients with depression and healthy individuals. All the participants were assessed for somatization syndrome and their general memory tested. They then listened to three audiotapes. In one, a doctor gave test results to a patient with abdominal pain (a medical situation). The other two tapes dealt with a social situation (the lack of an invitation to a barbecue) and a neutral situation (a car breakdown). Each tape contained ten messages, including four that addressed possible explanations for the problem. Two were unambiguous and negative—for example, “the reason for your complaints is definitely not stomach flu.” Two were ambiguous but highly unlikely—“we don't think that you have bowel cancer; this is very unlikely.” The researchers then assessed how well the participants remembered the likelihood that any given explanation was responsible for the patient's symptoms, the missing invitation, or the broken-down car. The patients with somatization syndrome overestimated the likelihood of medical causes for symptoms, particularly (and somewhat surprisingly) when the doctor's assessment had been unambiguous. By contrast, the other participants correctly remembered the doctor's estimates as low. The three study groups were similar in their recall of the likelihood estimates from the social or neutral situation. Finally, when asked to imagine that the medical situation was personally applicable, the patients with unexplained symptoms reacted more emotionally than the other study participants by reporting more concerns with their health.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These results support the researchers' hypothesis that people with somatization syndrome remember the chance that a given symptom has a specific medical cause incorrectly. This is not because of a general memory deficit or an inability to commit health-related facts to memory. The results also indicate that these patients react emotionally to medical situations, so they may find it hard to cope when a doctor fails to explain all their symptoms. Some of these characteristics could, of course, reflect the patients' previous experiences with medical professionals, and the experiment will need to be repeated with additional taped situations and more patients before firm recommendations can be made to help people with somatization syndrome. Nevertheless, given that medical reassurance and the presentation of negative results led to overestimates of the likelihood of medical explanations for symptoms in patients with somatization syndrome, the researchers recommend that doctors bear this bias in mind. To reduce it, they suggest, doctors could ask patients for summaries about what they have been told. This would make it possible to detect when patients have misremembered the likelihood of various medical explanations, and provide an opportunity to correct the situation.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
• MedlinePlus encyclopedia entry on somatization disorder
• Wikipedia page on somatization disorder (note that Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit)
• Prodigy Knowledge's information for patients on somatization and somatoform disorders
PMCID: PMC1523375  PMID: 16866576
11.  Community Based Participatory Research: A New approach to engaging community members to rapidly call 911 for Stroke 
Background and Purpose
Acute stroke treatments are underutilized primarily due to delayed hospital arrival. Using a community based participatory research approach, we explored stroke self-efficacy, knowledge and perceptions of stroke among a predominately African American population in Flint, Michigan.
In March 2010, a survey was administered to youth and adults after religious services at three churches and one church health day. The survey consisted of vignettes (12 stroke, 4 non-stroke) to assess knowledge of stroke warning signs and behavioral intent to call 911. The survey also assessed stroke self-efficacy, personal knowledge of someone who had had a stroke, personal history of stroke and barriers to calling 911. Linear regression models explored the association of stroke self-efficacy with behavioral intent to call 911 among adults.
Two hundred forty two adults and 90 youth completed the survey. Ninety two percent of adults and 90% of youth respondents were African American. Responding to 12 stroke vignettes, adults would call 911 in 72% (sd=0.26) of the vignettes while youth would call 911 in 54% (sd=0.29) (p<0.001). Adults correctly identified stroke in 51% (sd=0.32) of the stroke vignettes and youth in 46% (sd=0.28) of the stroke vignettes (p=0.28). Stroke self-efficacy predicted behavioral intent to call 911 (p=0.046).
In addition to knowledge of stroke warning signs, behavioral interventions to increase both stroke self-efficacy and behavioral intent may be useful for helping people make appropriate 911 calls for stroke. A community based participatory research approach may be effective in reducing stroke disparities.
PMCID: PMC4005877  PMID: 21617148
Stroke; African Americans; Community Based Participatory Research
12.  Smoking Cessation for Patients With Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) 
Executive Summary
In July 2010, the Medical Advisory Secretariat (MAS) began work on a Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) evidentiary framework, an evidence-based review of the literature surrounding treatment strategies for patients with COPD. This project emerged from a request by the Health System Strategy Division of the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care that MAS provide them with an evidentiary platform on the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of COPD interventions.
After an initial review of health technology assessments and systematic reviews of COPD literature, and consultation with experts, MAS identified the following topics for analysis: vaccinations (influenza and pneumococcal), smoking cessation, multidisciplinary care, pulmonary rehabilitation, long-term oxygen therapy, noninvasive positive pressure ventilation for acute and chronic respiratory failure, hospital-at-home for acute exacerbations of COPD, and telehealth (including telemonitoring and telephone support). Evidence-based analyses were prepared for each of these topics. For each technology, an economic analysis was also completed where appropriate. In addition, a review of the qualitative literature on patient, caregiver, and provider perspectives on living and dying with COPD was conducted, as were reviews of the qualitative literature on each of the technologies included in these analyses.
The Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Mega-Analysis series is made up of the following reports, which can be publicly accessed at the MAS website at:
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) Evidentiary Framework
Influenza and Pneumococcal Vaccinations for Patients With Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): An Evidence-Based Analysis
Smoking Cessation for Patients With Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): An Evidence-Based Analysis
Community-Based Multidisciplinary Care for Patients With Stable Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): An Evidence-Based Analysis
Pulmonary Rehabilitation for Patients With Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): An Evidence-Based Analysis
Long-term Oxygen Therapy for Patients With Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): An Evidence-Based Analysis
Noninvasive Positive Pressure Ventilation for Acute Respiratory Failure Patients With Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): An Evidence-Based Analysis
Noninvasive Positive Pressure Ventilation for Chronic Respiratory Failure Patients With Stable Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): An Evidence-Based Analysis
Hospital-at-Home Programs for Patients With Acute Exacerbations of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): An Evidence-Based Analysis
Home Telehealth for Patients With Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): An Evidence-Based Analysis
Cost-Effectiveness of Interventions for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Using an Ontario Policy Model
Experiences of Living and Dying With COPD: A Systematic Review and Synthesis of the Qualitative Empirical Literature
For more information on the qualitative review, please contact Mita Giacomini at: member_giacomini.htm.
For more information on the economic analysis, please visit the PATH website:
The Toronto Health Economics and Technology Assessment (THETA) collaborative has produced an associated report on patient preference for mechanical ventilation. For more information, please visit the THETA website:
The objective of this evidence-based analysis was to determine the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of smoking cessation interventions in the management of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Clinical Need: Condition and Target Population
Tobacco smoking is the main risk factor for COPD. It is estimated that 50% of older smokers develop COPD and more than 80% of COPD-associated morbidity is attributed to tobacco smoking. According to the Canadian Community Health Survey, 38.5% of Ontarians who smoke have COPD. In patients with a significant history of smoking, COPD is usually present with symptoms of progressive dyspnea (shortness of breath), cough, and sputum production. Patients with COPD who smoke have a particularly high level of nicotine dependence, and about 30.4% to 43% of patients with moderate to severe COPD continue to smoke. Despite the severe symptoms that COPD patients suffer, the majority of patients with COPD are unable to quit smoking on their own; each year only about 1% of smokers succeed in quitting on their own initiative.
Smoking cessation is the process of discontinuing the practice of inhaling a smoked substance. Smoking cessation can help to slow or halt the progression of COPD. Smoking cessation programs mainly target tobacco smoking, but may also encompass other substances that can be difficult to stop smoking due to the development of strong physical addictions or psychological dependencies resulting from their habitual use.
Smoking cessation strategies include both pharmacological and nonpharmacological (behavioural or psychosocial) approaches. The basic components of smoking cessation interventions include simple advice, written self-help materials, individual and group behavioural support, telephone quit lines, nicotine replacement therapy (NRT), and antidepressants. As nicotine addiction is a chronic, relapsing condition that usually requires several attempts to overcome, cessation support is often tailored to individual needs, while recognizing that in general, the more intensive the support, the greater the chance of success. Success at quitting smoking decreases in relation to:
a lack of motivation to quit,
a history of smoking more than a pack of cigarettes a day for more than 10 years,
a lack of social support, such as from family and friends, and
the presence of mental health disorders (such as depression).
Research Question
What are the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of smoking cessation interventions compared with usual care for patients with COPD?
Research Methods
Literature Search
Search Strategy
A literature search was performed on June 24, 2010 using OVID MEDLINE, MEDLINE In-Process and Other Non-Indexed Citations (1950 to June Week 3 2010), EMBASE (1980 to 2010 Week 24), the Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature (CINAHL), the Cochrane Library, and the Centre for Reviews and Dissemination for studies published between 1950 and June 2010. A single reviewer reviewed the abstracts and obtained full-text articles for those studies meeting the eligibility criteria. Reference lists were also examined for any additional relevant studies not identified through the search. Data were extracted using a standardized data abstraction form.
Inclusion Criteria
English-language, full reports from 1950 to week 3 of June, 2010;
either randomized controlled trials (RCTs), systematic reviews and meta-analyses, or non-RCTs with controls;
a proven diagnosis of COPD;
adult patients (≥ 18 years);
a smoking cessation intervention that comprised at least one of the treatment arms;
≥ 6 months’ abstinence as an outcome; and
patients followed for ≥ 6 months.
Exclusion Criteria
case reports
case series
Outcomes of Interest
≥ 6 months’ abstinence
Quality of Evidence
The quality of each included study was assessed taking into consideration allocation concealment, randomization, blinding, power/sample size, withdrawals/dropouts, and intention-to-treat analyses.
The quality of the body of evidence was assessed as high, moderate, low, or very low according to the GRADE Working Group criteria. The following definitions of quality were used in grading the quality of the evidence:
Summary of Findings
Nine RCTs were identified from the literature search. The sample sizes ranged from 74 to 5,887 participants. A total of 8,291 participants were included in the nine studies. The mean age of the patients in the studies ranged from 54 to 64 years. The majority of studies used the Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD) COPD staging criteria to stage the disease in study subjects. Studies included patients with mild COPD (2 studies), mild-moderate COPD (3 studies), moderate–severe COPD (1 study) and severe–very severe COPD (1 study). One study included persons at risk of COPD in addition to those with mild, moderate, or severe COPD, and 1 study did not define the stages of COPD. The individual quality of the studies was high. Smoking cessation interventions varied across studies and included counselling or pharmacotherapy or a combination of both. Two studies were delivered in a hospital setting, whereas the remaining 7 studies were delivered in an outpatient setting. All studies reported a usual care group or a placebo-controlled group (for the drug-only trials). The follow-up periods ranged from 6 months to 5 years. Due to excessive clinical heterogeneity in the interventions, studies were first grouped into categories of similar interventions; statistical pooling was subsequently performed, where appropriate. When possible, pooled estimates using relative risks for abstinence rates with 95% confidence intervals were calculated. The remaining studies were reported separately.
Abstinence Rates
Table ES1 provides a summary of the pooled estimates for abstinence, at longest follow-up, from the trials included in this review. It also shows the respective GRADE qualities of evidence.
Summary of Results*
Abbreviations: CI, confidence interval; NRT, nicotine replacement therapy.
Statistically significant (P < 0.05).
One trial used in this comparison had 2 treatment arms each examining a different antidepressant.
Based on a moderate quality of evidence, compared with usual care, abstinence rates are significantly higher in COPD patients receiving intensive counselling or a combination of intensive counselling and NRT.
Based on limited and moderate quality of evidence, abstinence rates are significantly higher in COPD patients receiving NRT compared with placebo.
Based on a moderate quality of evidence, abstinence rates are significantly higher in COPD patients receiving the antidepressant bupropion compared to placebo.
PMCID: PMC3384371  PMID: 23074432
13.  The Effect of Chance Variability in Blood Pressure Readings on the Decision Making of General Practitioners: An Internet-Based Case Vignette Study 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(11):e46556.
Guidelines for the management of blood pressure (BP) in primary care generally suggest that decisions be made on the basis of specific threshold values (e.g. BP 140/90 mmHg); but this fails to adequately accommodate a common cause of variation – the play of chance.
To determine the impact of chance variability in BP readings on the clinical decision making of general practitioners (GPs) regarding anti-hypertensive treatment and cardiovascular risk management.
We used an internet based study design, where 109 GPs were assigned to manage one of eight case vignettes (guidelines would recommend treatment for only one of the eight) and presented with blood pressure readings that were randomly selected from an underlying population.
Seventeen (15.6%, 17/109) GPs consulted the vignette for whom treatment was recommended, but only 7/17 (41.2%) GPs prescribed treatment, whereas 14/92 (15.2%) GPs prescribed medication to the other vignettes. When deciding to follow-up a vignette GPs were influenced by threshold values for systolic and diastolic BP, but not by the overall cardiovascular risk. If the first reading was a low BP (systolic <140, diastolic <90) GPs were highly likely to discharge the vignette and follow-up a high BP reading (diastolic >90 or systolic BP≥140). Similar factors predicted the decision to prescribe a drug, although the vignette’s cardiovascular risk (>20%) was now statistically significant (p = 0.03).
GP decision making, whilst generally consistent with guidelines, appears to be compromised by chance variation leading to under and over treatment. Interventions to adequately accommodate chance variability into clinical decision making are required.
PMCID: PMC3487729  PMID: 23133591
14.  Do patients wish to be involved in decision making in the consultation? A cross sectional survey with video vignettes 
BMJ : British Medical Journal  2000;321(7265):867-871.
To determine patients' preferences for a shared or directed style of consultation in the decision making part of the general practice consultation.
Structured interview, with video vignettes of acted consultations.
5 practices in Lothian, Scotland.
410 patients (adults and adults accompanying children) attending surgery appointments.
Main outcome measures
Preference for shared or directed form of video vignette for five different presenting conditions.
Patients varied in their preference for involvement in decision making in the consultation. Under multiple regression analysis, patients' preference was found to be independently predicted by the problem viewed (patients presented with physical problems preferred a directed approach), patients' age (patients aged 61 or older were more likely to prefer the directed approach), social class (social classes I and II were more likely to prefer the shared approach), and smoking status (smokers more likely to prefer the shared approach). Those patients who were able to answer (or who thought their doctor's style similar to those in the vignettes) were more likely to describe their own doctor's style as similar to their preferred style. No major association in preference was found with sex, frequency of attendance, or perceived chronic ill health.
Patients may vary in their desire for involvement in decision making in consultations. Although this variation seems to depend on the presenting problem, age, social class, and smoking status, these associations are not absolute, with large minorities in each group. Doctors need the skills, knowledge of their patients, and the time to determine on which occasions, with which illnesses, and at which level their patients wish to be involved in decision making.
PMCID: PMC27496  PMID: 11021866
15.  "I did not intend to stop. I just could not stand cigarettes any more." A qualitative interview study of smoking cessation among the elderly 
BMC Family Practice  2011;12:42.
Every year, more than 650,000 Europeans die because they smoke. Smoking is considered to be the single most preventable factor influencing health. General practitioners (GP) are encouraged to advise on smoking cessation at all suitable consultations. Unsolicited advice from GPs results in one of 40-60 smokers stopping smoking. Smoking cessation advice has traditionally been given on an individual basis. Our aim was to gain insights that may help general practitioners understand why people smoke, and why smokers stop and then remain quitting and, from this, to find fruitful approaches to the dialogue about stopping smoking.
Interviews with 18 elderly smokers and ex-smokers about their smoking and decisions to smoke or quit were analysed with qualitative content analysis across narratives. A narrative perspective was applied.
Six stages in the smoking story emerged, from the start of smoking, where friends had a huge influence, until maintenance of the possible cessation. The informants were influenced by "all the others" at all stages. Spouses had vital influence in stopping, relapses and continued smoking. The majority of quitters had stopped by themselves without medication, and had kept the tobacco handy for 3-6 months. Often smoking cessation seemed to happen unplanned, though sometimes it was planned. With an increasingly negative social attitude towards smoking, the informants became more aware of the risks of smoking.
"All the others" is a clue in the smoking story. For smoking cessation, it is essential to be aware of the influence of friends and family members, especially a spouse. People may stop smoking unplanned, even when motivation is not obvious. Information from the community and from doctors on the negative aspects of smoking should continue. Eliciting life-long smoking narratives may open up for a fruitful dialogue, as well as prompting reflection about smoking and adding to the motivation to stop.
PMCID: PMC3132720  PMID: 21627833
Decisions; general medical practice; qualitative; smoking cessation; spouse
16.  Influence of physician and patient gender on provision of smoking cessation advice in general practice 
Tobacco Control  1998;7(4):360-363.
OBJECTIVE—To examine the association between physician and patient gender and physicians' self-reported likelihood of providing smoking cessation advice to smokers using hypothetical case scenarios in primary care.
DESIGN—Cross-sectional analysis of a self-administered questionnaire.
SUBJECTS—National random sample of Australian general practitioners (GPs).
MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES—Self-reported likelihood of advising hypothetical male and female smokers to stop smoking during a consultation for ear-syringing ("opportunistic" approach) or a dedicated preventive health "check up".
RESULTS—855 GPs returned questionnaires (67% response rate). Significantly more respondents indicated they would be "highly likely" to initiate an opportunistic discussion about smoking with a male smoker (47.8% (95% confidence intervals (CI) = 44.5 to 51.2)) than a female smoker (36.3% (95% CI = 33.1 to 39.5]). Older, male GPs were less likely to adopt an opportunistic approach to smoking cessation for patients of either sex. Respondents were more likely to recommend that a male patient return for a specific preventive health check up. Furthermore, in the context of a health check up, a greater proportion in total of respondents indicated they would be "highly likely" to discuss smoking with a man (86.9%, 95% CI = 84.5 to 89.0) than a female smoker (82.5%, 95% CI = 79.8 to 84.9).
CONCLUSIONS—As measured by physician self-report, the likelihood of advising smokers to quit during primary care consultations in Australia appears to be influenced by gender bias. Gender-sensitive strategies to support cessation activities are recommended.

Keywords: smoking cessation; gender; general practitioners
PMCID: PMC1751450  PMID: 10093168
17.  Estimates of Pandemic Influenza Vaccine Effectiveness in Europe, 2009–2010: Results of Influenza Monitoring Vaccine Effectiveness in Europe (I-MOVE) Multicentre Case-Control Study 
PLoS Medicine  2011;8(1):e1000388.
Results from a European multicentre case-control study reported by Marta Valenciano and colleagues suggest good protection by the pandemic monovalent H1N1 vaccine against pH1N1 and no effect of the 2009–2010 seasonal influenza vaccine on H1N1.
A multicentre case-control study based on sentinel practitioner surveillance networks from seven European countries was undertaken to estimate the effectiveness of 2009–2010 pandemic and seasonal influenza vaccines against medically attended influenza-like illness (ILI) laboratory-confirmed as pandemic influenza A (H1N1) (pH1N1).
Methods and Findings
Sentinel practitioners swabbed ILI patients using systematic sampling. We included in the study patients meeting the European ILI case definition with onset of symptoms >14 days after the start of national pandemic vaccination campaigns. We compared pH1N1 cases to influenza laboratory-negative controls. A valid vaccination corresponded to >14 days between receiving a dose of vaccine and symptom onset. We estimated pooled vaccine effectiveness (VE) as 1 minus the odds ratio with the study site as a fixed effect. Using logistic regression, we adjusted VE for potential confounding factors (age group, sex, month of onset, chronic diseases and related hospitalizations, smoking history, seasonal influenza vaccinations, practitioner visits in previous year). We conducted a complete case analysis excluding individuals with missing values and a multiple multivariate imputation to estimate missing values. The multivariate imputation (n = 2902) adjusted pandemic VE (PIVE) estimates were 71.9% (95% confidence interval [CI] 45.6–85.5) overall; 78.4% (95% CI 54.4–89.8) in patients <65 years; and 72.9% (95% CI 39.8–87.8) in individuals without chronic disease. The complete case (n = 1,502) adjusted PIVE were 66.0% (95% CI 23.9–84.8), 71.3% (95% CI 29.1–88.4), and 70.2% (95% CI 19.4–89.0), respectively. The adjusted PIVE was 66.0% (95% CI −69.9 to 93.2) if vaccinated 8–14 days before ILI onset. The adjusted 2009–2010 seasonal influenza VE was 9.9% (95% CI −65.2 to 50.9).
Our results suggest good protection of the pandemic monovalent vaccine against medically attended pH1N1 and no effect of the 2009–2010 seasonal influenza vaccine. However, the late availability of the pandemic vaccine and subsequent limited coverage with this vaccine hampered our ability to study vaccine benefits during the outbreak period. Future studies should include estimation of the effectiveness of the new trivalent vaccine in the upcoming 2010–2011 season, when vaccination will occur before the influenza season starts.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Following the World Health Organization's declaration of pandemic phase six in June 2009, manufacturers developed vaccines against pandemic influenza A 2009 (pH1N1). On the basis of the scientific opinion of the European Medicines Agency, the European Commission initially granted marketing authorization to three pandemic vaccines for use in European countries. During the autumn of 2009, most European countries included the 2009–2010 seasonal influenza vaccine and the pandemic vaccine in their influenza vaccination programs.
The Influenza Monitoring Vaccine Effectiveness in Europe network (established to monitor seasonal and pandemic influenza vaccine effectiveness) conducted seven case-control and three cohort studies in seven European countries in 2009–2010 to estimate the effectiveness of the pandemic and seasonal vaccines. Data from the seven pilot case-control studies were pooled to provide overall adjusted estimates of vaccine effectiveness.
Why Was This Study Done?
After seasonal and pandemic vaccines are made available to populations, it is necessary to estimate the effectiveness of the vaccines at the population level during every influenza season. Therefore, this study was conducted in European countries to estimate the pandemic influenza vaccine effectiveness and seasonal influenza vaccine effectiveness against people presenting to their doctor with influenza-like illness who were confirmed (by laboratory tests) to be infected with pH1N1.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers conducted a multicenter case-control study on the basis of practitioner surveillance networks from seven countries—France, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Romania, Portugal, and Spain. Patients consulting a participating practitioner for influenza-like illness had a nasal or throat swab taken within 8 days of symptom onset. Cases were swabbed patients who tested positive for pH1N1. Patients presenting with influenza-like illness whose swab tested negative for any influenza virus were controls.
Individuals were considered vaccinated if they had received a dose of the vaccine more than 14 days before the date of onset of influenza-like illness and unvaccinated if they were not vaccinated at all, or if the vaccine was given less than 15 days before the onset of symptoms. The researchers analyzed pandemic influenza vaccination effectiveness in those vaccinated less than 8 days, those vaccinated between and including 8 and 14 days, and those vaccinated more than 14 days before onset of symptoms compared to those who had never been vaccinated.
The researchers used modeling (taking account of all potential confounding factors) to estimate adjusted vaccine effectiveness and stratified the adjusted pandemic influenza vaccine effectiveness and the adjusted seasonal influenza vaccine effectiveness in three age groups (<15, 15–64, and ≥65 years of age).
The adjusted results suggest that the 2009–2010 seasonal influenza vaccine did not protect against pH1N1 illness. However, one dose of the pandemic vaccines used in the participating countries conferred good protection (65.5%–100% according to various stratifications performed) against pH1N1 in people who attended their practitioner with influenza-like illness, especially in people aged <65 years and in those without any chronic disease. Furthermore, good pandemic influenza vaccine effectiveness was observed as early as 8 days after vaccination.
What Do These Findings Mean?
The results of this study provide early estimates of the pandemic influenza vaccine effectiveness suggesting that the monovalent pandemic vaccines have been effective. The findings also give an indication of the vaccine effectiveness for the Influenza A (H1N1) 2009 strain included in the 2010–2011 seasonal vaccines, although specific vaccine effectiveness studies will have to be conducted to verify if similar good effectiveness are observed with 2010–2011 trivalent vaccines. However, the results of this study should be interpreted with caution because of limitations in the pandemic context (late timing of the studies, low incidence, low vaccine coverage leading to imprecise estimates) and potential biases due the study design, confounding factors, and missing values. The researchers recommend that in future season studies, the sample size per country should be enlarged in order to allow for precise pooled and stratified analyses.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at
The World Health Organization has information on H1N1 vaccination
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides a fact sheet on the 2009 H1N1 influenza virus
The US Department of Health and Human services has a comprehensive website on flu
The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control provides information on 2009 H1N1 pandemic
The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control presents a summary of the 2009 H1N1 pandemic in Europe and elsewhere
PMCID: PMC3019108  PMID: 21379316
18.  Qualitative study of patients’ perceptions of doctors’ advice to quit smoking: implications for opportunistic health promotion 
BMJ : British Medical Journal  1998;316(7148):1878-1881.
Objectives: To determine the effectiveness and acceptability of general practitioners’opportunistic antismoking interventions by examining detailed accounts of smokers’ experiences of these.
Design: Qualitative semistructured interview study.
Setting: South Wales.
Subjects: 42 participants in the Welsh smoking intervention study were asked about initial smoking, attempts to quit, thoughts about future smoking, past experiences with the health services, and the most appropriate way for health services to help them and other smokers.
Results: Main emerging themes were that subjects already made their own evaluations about smoking, did not believe doctors’ words could influence their smoking, believed that quitting was down to the individual, and felt that doctors who took the opportunity to talk about smoking should focus on the individual patient. Smokers anticipated that they would be given antismoking advice by doctors when attending for health care; they reacted by shrugging this off, feeling guilty, or becoming annoyed. These reactions affected the help seeking behaviour of some respondents. Smokers were categorised as “contrary,” “matter of fact,” and “self blaming,” depending on their reported reaction to antismoking advice.
Conclusions: Doctor-patient relationships can be damaged if doctors routinely advise all smokers to quit. Where doctors intervene, a patient centred approach—one that considers how individual patients view themselves as smokers and how they are likely to react to different styles of intervention—is the most acceptable.
Key messages Many patients who smoke are sceptical about the power of doctors’ words to influence smoking since most know about the dangers, make their own evaluations, and feel that quitting is down to the individual Opportunistic antismoking interventions should be sympathetic, not preaching, and centred on the patient as an individual Repeated ritualistic intervention on the part of doctors may deter patients from seeking medical help when they need it Smokers can be categorised as “contrary,” “matter of fact,” or “self blaming” in their reaction to antismoking advice Doctors can tailor their approach according to the type of patient
PMCID: PMC28587  PMID: 9632409
19.  A Longitudinal Study of Medicaid Coverage for Tobacco Dependence Treatments in Massachusetts and Associated Decreases in Hospitalizations for Cardiovascular Disease 
PLoS Medicine  2010;7(12):e1000375.
Thomas Land and colleagues show that among Massachusetts Medicaid subscribers, use of a comprehensive tobacco cessation pharmacotherapy benefit was followed by a substantial decrease in claims for hospitalizations for acute myocardial infarction and acute coronary heart disease.
Insurance coverage of tobacco cessation medications increases their use and reduces smoking prevalence in a population. However, uncertainty about the impact of this coverage on health care utilization and costs is a barrier to the broader adoption of this policy, especially by publicly funded state Medicaid insurance programs. Whether a publicly funded tobacco cessation benefit leads to decreased medical claims for tobacco-related diseases has not been studied. We examined the experience of Massachusetts, whose Medicaid program adopted comprehensive coverage of tobacco cessation medications in July 2006. Over 75,000 Medicaid subscribers used the benefit in the first 2.5 years. On the basis of earlier secondary survey work, it was estimated that smoking prevalence declined among subscribers by 10% during this period.
Methods and Findings
Using claims data, we compared the probability of hospitalization prior to use of the tobacco cessation pharmacotherapy benefit with the probability of hospitalization after benefit use among Massachusetts Medicaid beneficiaries, adjusting for demographics, comorbidities, seasonality, influenza cases, and the implementation of the statewide smoke-free air law using generalized estimating equations. Statistically significant annualized declines of 46% (95% confidence interval 2%–70%) and 49% (95% confidence interval 6%–72%) were observed in hospital admissions for acute myocardial infarction and other acute coronary heart disease diagnoses, respectively. There were no significant decreases in hospitalizations rates for respiratory diagnoses or seven other diagnostic groups evaluated.
Among Massachusetts Medicaid subscribers, use of a comprehensive tobacco cessation pharmacotherapy benefit was associated with a significant decrease in claims for hospitalizations for acute myocardial infarction and acute coronary heart disease, but no significant change in hospital claims for other diagnoses. For low-income smokers, removing the barriers to the use of smoking cessation pharmacotherapy has the potential to decrease short-term utilization of hospital services.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Smoking is the leading preventable cause of death in the world. Globally, it is responsible for one in ten deaths among adults. In developed countries, the death toll is even higher—in the USA and the UK, for example, one in five deaths are caused by cigarette smoking. In the USA alone, where a fifth of adults smoke, smoking accounts for more than 400,000 deaths every year; globally, smoking causes 5 million deaths per year. On average, smokers die 14 years earlier than nonsmokers, and half of all long-term smokers will die prematurely because of a smoking-related disease. These diseases include lung cancer, other types of cancer, heart disease, stroke, and lung diseases such as chronic airway obstruction, bronchitis, and emphysema. And, for every smoker who dies from one of these smoking-related diseases, another 20 will develop at least one serious disease because of their addiction to tobacco.
Why Was This Study Done?
About half of US smokers try to quit each year but most of these attempts fail. Many experts believe that counseling and/or treatment with tobacco cessation medications such as nicotine replacement products help smokers to quit. In the USA, where health care is paid for through private or state health insurance, there is some evidence that insurance coverage of tobacco cessation medications increases their use and reduces smoking prevalence. However, smoking cessation treatment is poorly covered by US health insurance programs, largely because of uncertainty about the impact of such coverage on health care costs. It is unknown, for example, whether the introduction of publicly funded tobacco cessation benefits decreases claims for treatment for tobacco-related diseases. In this longitudinal study (a study that follows a group of individuals over a period of time), the researchers ask whether the adoption of comprehensive coverage of tobacco cessation medications by the Massachusetts Medicaid program (MassHealth) in July 2006 has affected claims for treatment for tobacco-related diseases. During its first two and half years, more than 75,000 MassHealth subscribers used the tobacco cessation medication benefit and smoking prevalence among subscribers declined by approximately 10% (38.3% to 28.8%).
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers used MassHealth claims data and a statistical method called generalized estimating equations to compare the probability of hospitalization prior to the use of tobacco cessation medication benefit with the probability of hospitalization after benefit use among MassHealth subscribers. After adjusting for other factors that might have affected hospitalization such as influenza outbreaks and the implementation of the Massachusetts Smoke-Free Workplace Law in July 2004, there was a statistically significant annualized decline in hospital admissions for heart attack of 46% after use of the tobacco cessation medication benefit. That is, the calculated annual rate of admissions for heart attacks was 46% lower after use of the benefit than before among MassHealth beneficiaries. There was also a 49% annualized decline in admissions for coronary atherosclerosis, another smoking-related heart disease. There were no significant changes in hospitalization rates for lung diseases (including asthma, pneumonia, and chronic airway obstruction) or for seven other diagnostic groups.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings show that, among MassHealth subscribers, the use of a tobacco cessation medication benefit was followed by a significant decrease in claims for hospitalization for heart attack and for coronary atherosclerosis but not for other diseases. It does not, however, show that the reduced claims for hospitalization were associated with a reduction in smoking because smoking cessation was not recorded by MassHealth. Furthermore, it is possible that the people who used the tobacco cessation medication benefit shared other characteristics that reduced their chances of hospitalization for heart disease. For example, people using tobacco cessation medication might have been more likely to adhere to prescription schedules for medications such as statins that would also reduce their risk of heart disease. Finally, these findings might be unique to Massachusetts, so similar studies need to be undertaken in other states. Nevertheless, the results of this study suggest that, for low-income smokers, removing financial barriers to the use of smoking cessation medications has the potential to produce short-term decreases in the use of hospital services that will, hopefully, outweigh the costs of comprehensive tobacco cessation medication benefits.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Office on Smoking and Health has information on all aspects of smoking and health, including advice on how to quit
The UK National Health Service Choices Web site provides advice about quitting smoking; more advice on quitting is provided by Smokefree
The American Heart Association provides information on heart disease, including advice on how to quit smoking (in several languages)
Information about MassHealth is available, including information on smoking and tobacco use prevention
PMCID: PMC3000429  PMID: 21170313
20.  Withholding life prolonging treatment, and self deception 
Journal of Medical Ethics  2002;28(6):347-352.
Objectives: To compare non-treatment decision making by general practitioners and geriatricians in response to vignettes. To see whether the doctors' decisions were informed by ethical or legal reasoning.
Design: Qualitative study in which consultant geriatricians and general practitioners (GPs) randomly selected from a list of local practitioners were interviewed. The doctors were asked whether patients described in five vignettes should be admitted to hospital for further care, and to give supporting reasons. They were asked with whom they would consult, who they believed ought to make such decisions, and whether the relatives' preferences would influence their decision making.
Main measures: To analyse the factors influencing the doctors' decisions not to admit otherwise terminally ill patients to hospital for life prolonging treatment.
Results: Seventeen GPs and 18 geriatricians completed the interview. All vignettes produced strong concordance in decision making between both groups. Ten per cent of the doctors would provide life prolonging treatment to patients with severe brain damage. Most would admit a surgical patient regardless of age or disability. Medical reasons were largely used to explain decision making. The wishes of relatives were influential and resource considerations were not. There was variability regarding decision making responsibility.
Conclusions: Little attempt was made to link decision making with ethical or legal concepts and there may have been non-recognition, or denial, of the ethical consequences of failure to admit. The process of decision making may involve deception. This may be conscious, because of the illegality of euthanasia, or unconscious (self deception), because of deepseated medical and societal reluctance to accept that intentionally withholding life prolonging treatment may equate with intentionally causing death.
PMCID: PMC1757100  PMID: 12468652
21.  Computer support for recording and interpreting family histories of breast and ovarian cancer in primary care (RAGs): qualitative evaluation with simulated patients 
BMJ : British Medical Journal  1999;319(7201):32-36.
To explore general practitioners’ attitudes towards and use of a computer program for assessing genetic risk of cancer in primary care.
Qualitative analysis of semistructured interviews and video recordings of simulated consultations.
Purposive sample of 15 general practitioners covering a range of computer literacy, interest in genetics, age, and sex.
Each doctor used the program in two consultations in which an actor played a woman concerned about her family history of cancer. Consultations were videotaped and followed by interviews with the video as a prompt to questioning.
Main outcome measures
Use of computer program in the consultation.
The program was viewed as an appropriate application of information technology because of the complexity of cancer genetics and a sense of “guideline chaos” in primary care. Doctors found the program easy to use, but it often affected their control of the consultation. They needed to balance their desire to share the computer screen with the patient, driven by their concerns about the effect of the computer on doctor-patient communication, against the risk of premature disclosure of bad news.
This computer program could provide the necessary support to assist assessment of genetic risk of cancer in primary care. The potential impact of computer software on the consultation should not be underestimated. This study highlights the need for careful evaluation when developing medical information systems.
Key messagesGeneral practitioners are under increasing pressure to advise their patients about genetic predisposition to various diseasesComputers could help doctors to give genetic advice by simplifying the construction and assessment of family trees and implementing referral guidelinesThis qualitative evaluation explored the context in which a computer program for assessing genetic risk of cancer would be used in general practice and issues surrounding its integration into a consultationMost of the doctors found the program easy to use, but it affected their control of the consultation—because of their desire to share the computer screen with the patient and their inability to anticipate the information that would be displayedThe study identified important issues relating to the use of computers in consultations which may be of use in testing software for primary care in the future
PMCID: PMC28153  PMID: 10390458
22.  Depersonalised doctors: a cross-sectional study of 564 doctors, 760 consultations and 1876 patient reports in UK general practice 
BMJ Open  2012;2(1):e000274.
The objectives of this study were to assess burnout in a sample of general practitioners (GPs), to determine factors associated with depersonalisation and to investigate its impact on doctors' consultations with patients.
Cross-sectional, postal survey of GPs using the Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI). Patient survey and tape-recording of consultations for a subsample of respondents stratified by their MBI scores, gender and duration of General Medical Council registration.
UK general practice.
GPs within NHS Essex.
Primary and secondary outcome measures
Scores on MBI subscales (depersonalisation, emotional exhaustion, personal accomplishment); scores on Doctors' Interpersonal Skills Questionnaire and patient-centredness scores attributed to tape-recorded consultations by independent observers.
In the postal survey, 564/789 (71%) GPs completed the MBI. High levels of emotional exhaustion (261/564 doctors, 46%) and depersonalisation (237 doctors, 42%) and low levels of personal accomplishment (190 doctors, 34%) were reported. Depersonalisation scores were related to characteristics of the doctor and the practice. Male doctors reported significantly higher (p<0.001) depersonalisation than female doctors. Doctors registered with the General Medical Council under 20 years had significantly higher (p=0.005) depersonalisation scores than those registered for longer. Doctors in group practices had significantly higher (p=0.001) depersonalisation scores than single-handed practitioners. Thirty-eight doctors agreed to complete the patient survey (n=1876 patients) and audio-record consultations (n=760 consultations). Depersonalised doctors were significantly more likely (p=0.03) to consult with patients who reported seeing their ‘usual doctor’. There were no significant associations between doctors' depersonalisation and their patient-rated interpersonal skills or observed patient-centredness.
This is the largest number of doctors completing the MBI with the highest levels of depersonalisation reported. Despite experiencing substantial depersonalisation, doctors' feelings of burnout were not detected by patients or independent observers. Such levels of burnout are, however, worrying and imply a need for action by doctors themselves, their medical colleagues, professional bodies, healthcare organisations and the Department of Health.
Article summary
Article focus
A cross-sectional survey was designed to assess levels of burnout in a census sample of GPs in Essex, UK, and to determine which doctor- or practice-related variables predicted higher levels of burnout.
In the substudy, patients rated the interpersonal skills of their doctor and independent observers assessed the degree of patient-centredness in a sample of the doctors' audio-taped consultations.
Key messages
High levels of burnout were reported in the census survey—46% doctors reported emotional exhaustion, 42% reported depersonalisation and 34% reported low levels of personal accomplishment.
Doctors' depersonalisation scores could be predicted by a range of variables relating to the individual doctor and their practice, but higher depersonalisation scores were not associated with poorer patient ratings of the doctors' interpersonal skills or a reduction in the patient-centredness of their consultations.
While the professional practice and patient-centredness of consultations of the GPs in this study were not affected by feelings of burnout, there is a need to offer help and support for doctors who are experiencing this.
Strengths and limitations of this study
A high response rate (71%) was achieved in the census sample of GPs completing the MBI and a subsample of 38 doctors who satisfied the predetermined sample stratification consented to further assessment (patient survey and audio-taping of consultations).
The study was, however, limited to one county in the UK and thus cannot be extrapolated to other parts of the UK.
There was a differential response rate by the gender of the participant. Male doctors who were registered with the General Medical Council for >20 years were less likely to respond to the survey than their female counterparts.
PMCID: PMC3274717  PMID: 22300669
23.  Have the public's expectations for antibiotics for acute uncomplicated respiratory tract infections changed since the H1N1 influenza pandemic? A qualitative interview and quantitative questionnaire study 
BMJ Open  2012;2(2):e000674.
To investigate the effect of the H1N1 influenza pandemic on the public's expectations for a general practice consultation and antibiotic for acute respiratory illness.
Mixed methods.
Qualitative interviews: 17 participants with acute respiratory tract infection (RTI) visiting English pharmacies. Face-to-face survey: about 1700 adults aged 15 years and older were recruited from households in England in January 2008, 2009 and 2011.
The qualitative data indicated that the general public had either forgotten about the ‘swine flu’ (H1N1 influenza) pandemic or it did not concern them as it had not affected them directly or affected their management of their current RTI illness. Between 2009 and 2011, we found that there was little or no change in people's expectations for antibiotics for runny nose, colds, sore throat or cough, but people's expectations for antibiotics for flu increased (26%–32%, p=0.004). Of the 1000 respondents in 2011 with an RTI in the previous 6 months, 13% reported that they took care of themselves without contacting their general practitioners and would not have done so before the pandemic, 9% reported that they had contacted their doctor's surgery and would not have done so before the pandemic and 0.6% stated that they had asked for antibiotics and would not have done so before the pandemic. In 2011, of 123 respondents with a young child (0–4 years) having an RTI in the previous 6 months, 7.4% requested antibiotics and would not have done so before the pandemic. Unprompted, 20% of respondents thought Tamiflu© (oseltamivir) was a vaccine.
Expectations of the general public for a consultation or antibiotics with an RTI are similar now to before the H1N1 influenza pandemic; therefore, public antibiotic campaign messages and general practice advice to patients can remain unchanged. Parents with young children and those with personal experience of the H1N1 influenza are more likely to consult and will need more reassurance. The public need more education about Tamiflu©.
Article summary
Article focus
The H1N1 (2009) pandemic has ‘medicalised’ acute respiratory illness presenting with flu-like symptoms, including cough, cold, sore throat and fever.
The general public may now have a greater expectation that they should seek a consultation with a health professional and have a greater expectation for antibiotics when they next have an acute respiratory illness presenting with flu-like symptoms, including cough, cold, sore throat and fever.
To determine if expectations for a consultation or an anti-infective have changed as a result of the publics' experiences of the recent (2009) H1N1 influenza pandemic and to explore the publics' understanding of anti-infectives.
Key messages
The H1N1 influenza pandemic has not changed the general public's expectations for a general practitioner's consultation or antibiotics when they have a runny nose, cough, cold or sore throat but may have increased people's expectations for antibiotics for influenza.
Most have either forgotten about the influenza outbreak or it did not concern them as it had not affected them directly.
The smaller subsets of the public with young children and those who have had suspected or confirmed H1N1 influenza themselves are now more likely to consult and request an antibiotic for an RTI and, therefore, these groups will need more guidance and reassurance.
A fifth of the public believe that Tamiflu© (oseltamivir) is a vaccine, implying that enhanced information sharing is needed in this area.
Strengths and limitations of this study
This was a large survey of the general population, repeating some of the questions asked before the 2009 H1N1 flu epidemic, using the same sampling methods.
The qualitative interviews had recruitment problems with many potential interviewees not being at home when telephoned. However, the purpose of qualitative interviews was mainly to enrich our data, and they did help explain our quantitative findings.
The questionnaire survey asked to recall their most recent RTI in the previous 6 months and what actions they took on that occasion. This will be subject to some recall bias.
PMCID: PMC3323811  PMID: 22457479
24.  Factors associated with consultation behaviour for primary symptoms potentially indicating colorectal cancer: A cross-sectional study on response to symptoms 
BMC Gastroenterology  2012;12:100.
Little data exists on the factors associated with health care seeking behaviour for primary symptoms of colorectal cancer (CRC). This study aimed to identify individual, provider and psychosocial factors associated with (i) ever seeking medical advice and (ii) seeking early medical advice for primary symptoms of colorectal cancer (CRC).
1592 persons aged 56–88 years randomly selected from the Hunter Community Study (HCS) were sent a questionnaire.
Males and those who had received screening advice from a doctor were at significantly higher odds of ever seeking medical advice for rectal bleeding. Persons who had private health coverage, consulted a doctor because the ‘symptom was serious’, or who did not wait to consult a doctor for another reason were at significantly higher odds of seeking early medical advice (< 2 weeks). For change in bowel habit, persons with lower income, within the healthy weight range, or who had discussed their family history of CRC irrespective of whether informed of ‘increased risk’ were at significantly higher odds of ever seeking medical advice. Persons frequenting their GP less often and seeing their doctor because the symptom persisted were at significantly higher odds of seeking early medical advice (< 2 weeks).
The seriousness of symptoms, importance of early detection, and prompt consultation must be articulated in health messages to at-risk persons. This study identified modifiable factors, both individual and provider-related to consultation behaviour. Effective health promotion efforts must heed these factors and target sub-groups less likely to seek early medical advice.
PMCID: PMC3503829  PMID: 22862960
25.  Lung Cancer Occurrence in Never-Smokers: An Analysis of 13 Cohorts and 22 Cancer Registry Studies  
PLoS Medicine  2008;5(9):e185.
Better information on lung cancer occurrence in lifelong nonsmokers is needed to understand gender and racial disparities and to examine how factors other than active smoking influence risk in different time periods and geographic regions.
Methods and Findings
We pooled information on lung cancer incidence and/or death rates among self-reported never-smokers from 13 large cohort studies, representing over 630,000 and 1.8 million persons for incidence and mortality, respectively. We also abstracted population-based data for women from 22 cancer registries and ten countries in time periods and geographic regions where few women smoked. Our main findings were: (1) Men had higher death rates from lung cancer than women in all age and racial groups studied; (2) male and female incidence rates were similar when standardized across all ages 40+ y, albeit with some variation by age; (3) African Americans and Asians living in Korea and Japan (but not in the US) had higher death rates from lung cancer than individuals of European descent; (4) no temporal trends were seen when comparing incidence and death rates among US women age 40–69 y during the 1930s to contemporary populations where few women smoke, or in temporal comparisons of never-smokers in two large American Cancer Society cohorts from 1959 to 2004; and (5) lung cancer incidence rates were higher and more variable among women in East Asia than in other geographic areas with low female smoking.
These comprehensive analyses support claims that the death rate from lung cancer among never-smokers is higher in men than in women, and in African Americans and Asians residing in Asia than in individuals of European descent, but contradict assertions that risk is increasing or that women have a higher incidence rate than men. Further research is needed on the high and variable lung cancer rates among women in Pacific Rim countries.
Michael Thun and colleagues pooled and analyzed comprehensive data on lung cancer incidence and death rates among never-smokers to examine what factors other than active smoking affect lung cancer risk.
Editors' Summary
Every year, more than 1.4 million people die from lung cancer, a leading cause of cancer deaths worldwide. In the US alone, more than 161,000 people will die from lung cancer this year. Like all cancers, lung cancer occurs when cells begin to divide uncontrollably because of changes in their genes. The main trigger for these changes in lung cancer is exposure to the chemicals in cigarette smoke—either directly through smoking cigarettes or indirectly through exposure to secondhand smoke. Eighty-five to 90% of lung cancer deaths are caused by exposure to cigarette smoke and, on average, current smokers are 15 times more likely to die from lung cancer than lifelong nonsmokers (never smokers). Furthermore, a person's cumulative lifetime risk of developing lung cancer is related to how much they smoke, to how many years they are a smoker, and—if they give up smoking—to the age at which they stop smoking.
Why Was This Study Done?
Because lung cancer is so common, even the small fraction of lung cancer that occurs in lifelong nonsmokers represents a large number of people. For example, about 20,000 of this year's US lung cancer deaths will be in never-smokers. However, very little is known about how age, sex, or race affects the incidence (the annual number of new cases of diseases in a population) or death rates from lung cancer among never-smokers. A better understanding of the patterns of lung cancer incidence and death rates among never-smokers could provide useful information about the factors other than cigarette smoke that increase the likelihood of not only never-smokers, but also former smokers and current smokers developing lung cancer. In this study, therefore, the researchers pooled and analyzed a large amount of information about lung cancer incidence and death rates among never smokers to examine what factors other than active smoking affect lung cancer risk.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers analyzed information on lung cancer incidence and/or death rates among nearly 2.5 million self-reported never smokers (men and women) from 13 large studies investigating the health of people in North America, Europe, and Asia. They also analyzed similar information for women taken from cancer registries in ten countries at times when very few women were smokers (for example, the US in the late 1930s). The researchers' detailed statistical analyses reveal, for example, that lung cancer death rates in African Americans and in Asians living in Korea and Japan (but not among Asians living in the US) are higher than those in people of the European continental ancestry group. They also show that men have higher death rates from lung cancer than women irrespective of racial group, but that women aged 40–59 years have a slightly higher incidence of lung cancer than men of a similar age. This difference disappears at older ages. Finally, an analysis of lung cancer incidence and death rates at different times during the past 70 years shows no evidence of an increase in the lung cancer burden among never smokers over time.
What Do These Findings Mean?
Although some of the findings described above have been hinted at in previous, smaller studies, these and other findings provide a much more accurate picture of lung cancer incidence and death rates among never smokers. Most importantly the underlying data used in these analyses are now freely available and should provide an excellent resource for future studies of lung cancer in never smokers.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
The US National Cancer Institute provides detailed information for patients and health professionals about all aspects of lung cancer and information on smoking and cancer (in English and Spanish)
Links to other US-based resources dealing with lung cancer are provided by MedlinePlus (in English and Spanish)
Cancer Research UK provides key facts about the link between lung cancer and smoking and information about all other aspects of lung cancer
PMCID: PMC2531137  PMID: 18788891

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