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Ken R. SmithPhoto of Ken R. Smith
Family and Consumer Studies


Ken R. Smith, PhD, is an investigator at Huntsman Cancer Institute and a professor in the Department of Family and Consumer Studies at the University of Utah. He is a biological and social demographer and medical sociologist interested in family structure and health outcomes. His demographic work has focused on survival patterns of widows and widowers and the socioeconomic factors affecting disparities in longevity. He has a longstanding interest in individuals and families that participate in genetics research and how they respond to information about their genetic risk for cancer susceptibility following genetic testing. Professor 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.

Professor Smith is using the vast data holdings of the Utah Population Database (UPDB) to examine the relationship between family structure, mortality, and cancer risk over the past century. He is how the number, structure, and access to kin affect cancer incidence and mortality as well as overall longevity. Professor 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 are significantly postponed to very late ages. By researching exceptionally long-lived and normal-longevity control families in the UPDB, he 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.

Professor Smith’s work has been published in such journals as The Lancet, Journal of the American Medical Association, Demography, Journal of Gerontology (Biological Sciences), Journal of Marriage and Family, Journal of Gerontology (Social Sciences), Social Biology, American Journal of Medical Genetics, Cancer Epidemiology, Cancer, American Journal of Public Health, and the Milbank Quarterly. He has served on the editorial boards of Society for the Study of Social Biology and Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention and Co-Leader of the Cancer Control and Population Sciences Program at the NCI-Designated Cancer Center within the Huntsman Cancer Institute In 2006, he was the recipient of the University’s Distinguished Scholarly and Creative Research Award. Professor Smith is co-editor (with Cathleen D. Zick) of Utah at the Beginning of the New Millennium: A Demographic Perspective (University of Utah Press, 2006). He also directs the University’s Certificate Program in Demography.