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Mutat Res. 2003 May 15;526(1-2):93-125.

Challenges and complexities in estimating both the functional impact and the disease risk associated with the extensive genetic variation in human DNA repair genes.

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Biology and Biotechnology Research Program, L-448, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, 7000 East Avenue, CA 94551-0808, USA.


Individual risk and the population incidence of disease result from the interaction of genetic susceptibility and exposure. DNA repair is an example of a cellular process where genetic variation in families with extreme predisposition is documented to be associated with high disease likelihood, including syndromes of premature aging and cancer. Although the identification and characterization of new genes or variants in cancer families continues to be important, the focus of this paper is the current status of efforts to define the impact of polymorphic amino acid substitutions in DNA repair genes on individual and population cancer risk. There is increasing evidence that mild reductions in DNA repair capacity, assumed to be the consequence of common genetic variation, affect cancer predisposition. The extensive variation being found in the coding regions of DNA repair genes and the large number of genes in each of the major repair pathways results in complex genotypes with potential to impact cancer risk in the general population. The implications of this complexity for molecular epidemiology studies, as well as concepts that may make these challenges more manageable, are discussed. The concepts include both experimental and computational approaches that could be employed to develop predictors of disease susceptibility based on DNA repair genotype, focusing initially on studies to assess functional impact on individual proteins and pathways and then on molecular epidemiology studies to assess exposure-dependent health risk. In closing, we raise some of the non-technical challenges to the utilization of the full richness of the genetic variation to reduce disease occurrence and ultimately improve health care.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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