Inter-individual susceptibility to environmental toxicants--a current assessment.
Department of Environmental Health, Center for Environmental Genetics, University of Cincinnati Medical Center, P.O. Box 670056, Cincinnati, OH 45267-0056, USA. email@example.com
Virtually all diseases have an environmental component. The two most important factors affecting your unique risk of an environmental disease (toxicity or cancer) are (a) your exposure to the environmental agent and (b) your genes. Epidemiologists have found ways to calculate inter-individual risk--if the exposure to environmental agents is sufficiently high and can be documented (e.g., years of cigarette smoking, taking prescribed drugs, drinking alcohol, or exposure to radon or other radioactive material, etc.). If the dose of environmental agents is lower and more ambiguous (e.g., exposure to chemicals on the job, herbicides sprayed on a golf course, outdoor or indoor air pollution, endocrine disruptors in cans of food, living near a toxic waste dump site, etc.), however, calculations of inter-individual risk become much more difficult. Highly accurate DNA tests for genetic susceptibility to toxicity and cancer have been sought in order to identify individuals at increased risk; this type of research represents the leading edge of phenotype-genotype association studies and is the major goal of most public health and preventive medicine programs. The task, however, has turned out to be far more challenging than anticipated. The major stumbling block has been the difficulty in determining an unequivocal phenotype or an unequivocal genotype. We were quite optimistic 5-10 years ago that this would be easy, but now we are beginning to appreciate how difficult it is to determine an unequivocal phenotype or genotype with certainty. For many reasons set forth in this overview, it appears that DNA testing alone, to predict and prevent environmental disease on an individual basis, may be virtually impossible with current knowledge and technologies and will require novel insights before major practical applications will evolve.
PMID: 15982695 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]