Ken R. Smith, PhD, MS
Fellow, Gerontological Society of America (2012)
University Distinguished Scholarly and Creative Research Award, University of Utah (2006)
Superior Senior Research Award, College of Social & Behavioral Science, University of Utah (1998)
Superior Junior Research Award, College of Social & Behavioral Science, University of Utah (1990)
As a family demographer and medical sociologist, Smith's research has focused on suspected psychosocial consequences of genetic testing, including psychological distress, sibling and spouse relationships, reproductive decision making, cancer screening behaviors, cancer risk communications, and life insurance purchasing behavior. This information could help genetic counselors provide more information about genetic testing to at-risk persons who are considering testing.
Smith uses the Utah Population Database (UPDB) to examine the relationship between family structure, mortality, and cancer risk over the past century. In collaboration with Geraldine Mineau, PhD, a principal investigator at HCI, and Lee Bean, PhD, emeritus professor in the University of Utah's sociology department, Smith is attempting to learn more about how the number, structure, and access to kin affect cancer incidence and mortality as well as overall longevity. In collaboration with Richard Cawthon, MD, PhD, in the University of Utah's Department of Human Genetics, and Richard Kerber, PhD, an HCI investigator, Smith is using the UPDB to identify and study families that exhibit exceptional longevity and that may also be aging so slowly that age-related diseases such as breast and prostate cancer are postponed to late ages. By studying exceptionally long-lived and normal-longevity control families in the UPDB, researchers may be able to provide information that could identify individuals at risk for premature death and early incidence of certain cancers so that they may have a better chance for early detection and curative treatment.