Researchers are trying to determine if something in local residents' genes can explain their high rate of lung cancer.
"It's another question with respect . . . to lung cancer mortality here," said Dr. Kevin Wolfe, a physician and lead investigator of a study coordinated by the Heart and Lung Institute at St. Vincent's Medical Center.
The genetic study still awaits financing, but team members said they hope to start interviewing people in the next few months. St. Vincent's is trying to raise $750,000 for the study.
For decades, white men and to a lesser extent white women have died of lung cancer at a rate well above comparable national averages. Blacks have been less affected.
Last week, the Heart and Lung Institute released results of a study showing that high rates of smoking among Duval County white men account for a significant part of the high lung cancer death rate. Smoking is by far the leading cause of lung cancer.
Researchers also have discovered that asbestos exposure among workers in the large World War II-era shipbuilding industry here also accounted for some of the increased lung cancer rates.
But St. Vincent's researchers don't think those account for all of the increase.
They are joining with a team from Louisiana State University to study the possible genetic links to lung cancer in Duval County.
The research team plans to interview 600 lung cancer patients and 1,200 others to determine other possible causes, such as diets and medical histories, for the high lung cancer rate.