Air, Land, and Sea: Gene-Environment Interaction in Chronic Disease


      Each of us reflects a unique convergence of DNA and the environment. Over the past 2 decades, huge biobanks linked to electronic medical records have positioned the clinical and scientific communities to understand the complex genetic architecture underlying many common diseases. Although these efforts are producing increasingly accurate gene-based risk prediction algorithms for use in routine clinical care, the algorithms often fail to include environmental factors. This review explores the concept of heritability (genetic vs nongenetic determinants of disease), with emphasis on the role of environmental factors as risk determinants for common complex diseases influenced by air and water quality. Efforts to define patient exposure to specific toxicants in practice-based data sets will deepen our understanding of diseases with low heritability, and improved land management practices will reduce the burden of disease.


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