So far, the complex issues of interaction between genotype and environment are understood for only a small fraction of genetic diseases. This can make it difficult to sort out the genetic components of many traits that involve phe-nocopies or that may be conditional upon environmental effects, especially if there are many different genes and environmental factors that can affect the trait. Through the studies of geneticists, epidemiologists, and others, the complex interplay of genes and environment is gradually coming into focus. Will this eventually let us pinpoint who will become alcoholics if they take up drinking, or who it is that will develop lung cancer if they take up smoking? The goal is to end up being able to offer estimates of altered risk in the presence of environmental effects. Those risk estimates will tell us who has susceptibilities that should lead to more medical monitoring, different treatments, or advice on how we should change our diets or other behavior patterns. For many diseases that involve multiple different genetic components to susceptibility in addition to a complex array of environmental factors, it will continue being difficult to make certain predictions about the medical fate of a specific individual even if we can make statistical statements of risk for groups of people.
Sorting out which effects are genetic and which effects are not will assist those who are hunting for the genes that affect susceptibility. It will also take us a long way towards a better understanding of many different risks in life.
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