Causal Inference and Scientific Paradigms in Epidemiology

Genetic Variants and Individual- and Societal-Level Factors

Author(s): Steven S.Coughlin

Pp: 50-55 (6)

DOI: 10.2174/978160805181611001010050

* (Excluding Mailing and Handling)


Over the past decade, leading epidemiologists have noted the importance of social factors in studying and understanding the distribution and determinants of disease in human populations; but to what extent are epidemiologic studies integrating genetic information and other biologic variables with information about individual-level risk factors and group-level or societal factors related to the broader residential, behavioral, or cultural context? There remains a need to consider ways to integrate genetic information with social and contextual information in epidemiologic studies, partly to combat the overemphasis on the importance of genetic factors as determinants of disease in human populations. Even in genome-wide association studies of coronary heart disease and other common complex diseases, only a small proportion of heritability is explained by the genetic variants identified to date. It is possible that familial clustering due to genetic factors has been overestimated and that important environmental or social influences (acting alone or in combination with genetic variants) have been overlooked.

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