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Lifecourse Epidemiology and Molecular Pathological Epidemiology

  • Akihiro Nishi
    Correspondence
    Address correspondence to: Akihiro Nishi, MD, DrPH, Department of Sociology, Yale University, 17 Hillhouse Avenue, New Haven CT 06520
    Affiliations
    Department of Sociology, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut

    Yale Institute for Network Science, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut
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  • Ichiro Kawachi
    Affiliations
    Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts
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  • Karestan C. Koenen
    Affiliations
    Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts

    Department of Epidemiology, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University, New York, New York
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  • Kana Wu
    Affiliations
    Department of Nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health
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  • Reiko Nishihara
    Affiliations
    Department of Nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health

    Department of Medical Oncology, Harvard Medical School, Harvard University, Boston, Massachusetts

    Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Harvard Medical School, Harvard University, Boston, Massachusetts
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  • Shuji Ogino
    Affiliations
    Department of Epidemiology, Harvard School of Public Health

    Department of Medical Oncology, Harvard Medical School, Harvard University, Boston, Massachusetts

    Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Harvard Medical School, Harvard University, Boston, Massachusetts

    Department of Pathology, Harvard Medical School, Harvard University, Boston, Massachusetts

    Department of Pathology, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts
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      Lifecourse epidemiology studies long-term effects of social and environmental exposures on health and disease.
      • Kuh D.
      • Ben-Shlomo Y.
      • Lynch J.
      • Hallqvist J.
      • Power C.
      Life course epidemiology.
      • Berkman L.
      Social epidemiology: social determinants of health in the United States: are we losing ground?.
      A key challenge to the three models of lifecourse epidemiology is translating its empirical evidence into intervention planning, especially among populations where the critical social and environmental exposures happened in the past or when they represent difficult groups with which to intervene. In this article, molecular pathological epidemiology (MPE), which was first described in 2010, is reviewed.
      • Ogino S.
      • Lochhead P.
      • Chan A.T.
      • et al.
      Molecular pathological epidemiology of epigenetics: emerging integrative science to analyze environment, host, and disease.
      MPE reflects the recent technologic advances in molecular pathology, and has revealed that a disease (e.g., colorectal cancer) that has been studied as a single entity actually consists of a multitude of subtypes with differing biological features (e.g., combination of KRAS mutation +/−, BRAF mutation +/−, and more). Because each subtype theoretically is associated with a different set of epidemiologic risk factors, the social and environmental determinants of health through the lifecourse need to be re-examined from the “unique disease principle” perspective of MPE. Investigating molecular heterogeneity of disease and disease development processes can help epidemiologists identify modifiable factors of the ongoing disease development process caused by early-life exposures among adult populations.
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