Gene-Environment Interaction: A Genetic-Epidemiological Approach
Classical epidemiology addresses the distribution and determinants of diseases in populations, and the factors associated with disease causation, with the aim of preventing disease. Both genetic and environmental factors may contribute to susceptibility, and it is still unclear how these factors interact in their influence on risk. Genetic epidemiology is the field which incorporates concepts and methods from different disciplines including epidemiology, genetics, biostatistics, clinical and molecular medicine, and their interaction is crucial to understanding the role of genetic and environmental factors in disease processes. The study of gene-environment interaction is central in the field of genetic epidemiology. Gene-environment interaction is defined as »a different effect of an environmental exposure on disease risk in persons with different genotypes,« or, alternatively, »a different effect of a genotype on disease risk in persons with different environmental exposures.« Five biologically plausible models are described for the relations between genotypes and environmental exposures, in terms of their effects on disease risk. Therefore, the study of gene-environment interaction is important for improving accuracy and precision in the assessment of both genetic and environmental factors, especially in disorders of less defined etiology. Genetic epidemiology is also applied at the various levels of disease prevention.
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