Environment and Disease Risks

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Science  22 Oct 2010:
Vol. 330, Issue 6003, pp. 460-461
DOI: 10.1126/science.1192603

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Although the risks of developing chronic diseases are attributed to both genetic and environmental factors, 70 to 90% of disease risks are probably due to differences in environments (13). Yet, epidemiologists increasingly use genome-wide association studies (GWAS) to investigate diseases, while relying on questionnaires to characterize “environmental exposures.” This is because GWAS represent the only approach for exploring the totality of any risk factor (genes, in this case) associated with disease prevalence. Moreover, the value of costly genetic information is diminished when inaccurate and imprecise environmental data lead to biased inferences regarding gene-environment interactions (4). A more comprehensive and quantitative view of environmental exposure is needed if epidemiologists are to discover the major causes of chronic diseases.