Encyclopedia of Molecular Biology and Molecular Medicine. Weinheim, Germany: Wiley-VCH Verlag, GmbH& Co. KgaA, 2004 Apr 4:225-235
Molecular epidemiology is the use of molecular biological techniques to identify exposures, effects, or susceptibility factors in studies of human populations. Molecular epidemiology and traditional epidemiology utilize the same paradigm. However, the former presents the opportunity to use the enhanced resolving power of molecular biology in the assessment of exposure-disease relationships. The resolving power, to elucidate a continuum of events between xenobiotic exposure and disease, can provide stronger approaches to research, prevention, and intervention. One particular aspect of the new resolving power of molecular epidemiology is the application of the products of genomic research to epidemiology to assess the genetic components of disease and the interaction between genetic and environmental factors in disease causation. Conversely, the molecular epidemiologic approach may contribute to genomics research by emphasizing the importance of populations and a population perspective. Genetic biomarkers reflect population dynamics and represent useful tools in uncovering complicated interrelationships between environment, culture, and genetics in human history.