Genetic epidemiology and public health: Hope, hype, and future prospects

George Davey Smith*, Shah Ebrahim, Sarah Lewis, Anna L. Hansell, Lyle J. Palmer, Paul R. Burton

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

250 Citations (Scopus)


Genetic epidemiology is a rapidly expanding research field, but the implications of findings from such studies for individual or population health are unclear. The use of molecular genetic screening currently has some legitimacy in certain monogenic conditions, but no established value with respect to common complex diseases. Personalised medical care based on molecular genetic testing is also as yet undeveloped for common diseases. Genetic epidemiology can contribute to establishing the causal nature of environmentally modifiable risk factors, throught the application of mendelian randomisation approaches and thus contribute to appropriate preventive strategies. Technological and other advances will allow the potential of genetic epidemiology to be revealed over the next few years, and the establishment of large population-based resources for such studies (biobanks) should contribute to this endeavour.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1484-1498
Number of pages15
JournalThe Lancet
Issue number9495
Publication statusPublished - 22 Oct 2005
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We are grateful for the constructive suggestions of a number of anonymous referees, several of which we incorporated directly into our manuscript. The research programme in genetic epidemiology at the University of Leicester is, and has been, supported in part by MRC Cooperative Grant#G9806740, Program Grant # 00\3209 from the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia and by Leverhulme Research Interchange Grant # F/07134/K. George Davey Smith's work on mendelian randomisation is supported by the World Cancer Research Fund (ref no: 2004/18). Anna Hansell is funded by UK Biobank.


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