Send to

Choose Destination
Am J Hum Genet. 1988 Jan;42(1):89-95.

An epidemiologic approach to ecogenetics.

Author information

Division of Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, Centers for Disease Control, Atlanta, GA 30333.


Although "ecogenetics" seeks to examine genetically mediated differences in susceptibility to environmental agents, researchers often examine the relation between genetic markers and disease without regard to environmental determinants. By using epidemiologic definitions of genotype-environment interaction, it can be shown that the relative risk of disease for the genetic marker is a function of the frequency of exposure to the environmental agent, the strength of interaction between the genotype and the agent, and the specificity of the environmental effect vis-à-vis the genotype. Using examples from the literature, we illustrate under six patterns of genotype-environment interaction that the relative risk associated with the marker can fluctuate markedly. However, with infrequent exposures, the relative risk is close to unity (implying no genetic effect) even in the face of strong genotype-environment interaction. Alternatively, elevated relative risks imply a frequent environmental exposure or a strong pattern of interaction. We suggest that genetic marker-disease associations be evaluated within the context of an epidemiologic study design that considers specific environmental determinants of risk.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center