UPMC Hillman Cancer Center

Biobehavioral Analysis of Cancer Risk Behaviors

CigaretteCigarette smoking continues to be the most preventable cause of cancer world-wide. Therefore, biobehavioral investigations of smoking behavior continue to be a major focus of research in the Program. BOP investigators are engaged in transdisciplinary research necessary to provide the evidence base for effective national-level policy changes and individual-level interventions to reduce exposure to tobacco carcinogens at all three phases of the smoking continuum: initiation, maintenance, and cessation.

Selected Publications

  • Nondaily, or intermittent smokers (ITS), who constitute a substantial fraction of U.S. smokers, are thought to smoke in response to cues. Previous cue reactivity research showed no difference between ITS and daily smokers in response to cues. A recent study conducted by BOP members found that regardless of cues, “converted” ITS (CITS), or those with a history of past daily smoking, reported higher craving and greater change in craving, were more likely to smoke, tended to progress faster to smoking, and showed greater increases in carbon monoxide when they did smoke than “native” ITS (NITS). NITS and CITS showed similar cue reactivity on most measures, though NITS took more puffs after viewing smoking cues (compared to neutral) than did CITS. (Shiffman et. al., Nicotine Tob Res. 2014 Aug 28.)
  • Product standards that greatly reduce the content of nicotine within cigarettes may result in improved public health. An animal model was used to investigate whether individuals who start smoking after implementation of regulation may be affected differently from current smokers who form the basis of most clinical studies. This study showed that animals with a history of self-administering a high dose of nicotine had a higher rate of self-administration across the low doses than animals with no history. In addition, the number of earned infusions increased after rats experienced self-administration of a higher dose of nicotine. These data indicate that low-dose nicotine self-administration is higher after a dose reduction than during acquisition. If a nicotine reduction policy were implemented, then this policy may be especially effective at reducing acquisition of smoking. (Smith et. al., Exp Clin Psychopharmacol. 2014 Oct;22(5):453-9.)
  • It is known that the environments in which smoking has previously occurred can alone, in the absence of any explicit smoking stimuli (e.g., cigarettes, lighters), serve as cues that induce robust craving to smoke. Results from the present study suggest that the people around whom smokers regularly smoke can alone function as cues capable of eliciting patterns of reactivity similar to that evoked by proximal and environment smoking cues, namely, increased craving to smoke, negative affect, and excitement. In contrast, the people around whom smokers do not smoke become associated with not smoking and serve a potential protective function by reducing craving and increasing calm. This novel investigation and its results have implications for promoting smoking cessation by developing strategies to manage a smoker's social environment. (Conklin et. al., Nicotine Tob Res. 2013 Dec;15(12):2081-7.)


Bovbjerg, Dana, PhD
Primack, Brian A., MD, PhD
Burke, Lora, PhD, MPH, RN, FAAN
Health and Community Systems
Robertson, Linda, RN, MSN, DrPH
Conklin, Cynthia, PhD
Sayette, Michael, PhD
Donny, Eric, PhD
Shadel, William, PhD
Jakicic, John, PhD
Health and Physical Activity
Shiffman, Saul, PhD
Levine, Michele, PhD
Sun, Mingui, PhD
Neurological Surgery
Linkov, Faina, PhD, MPH
Obstetrics, Gynecology & Reproductive Sciences
Venditti, Elizabeth, PhD
Perkins, Kenneth, PhD