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Assessing causal relationships in genomics: from Bradford-Hill criteria to complex gene-environment interactions and directed acyclic graphs

Geneletti, Sara, Gallo, Valentina, Porta, Miquel, Khoury, Muin J. and Vineis, Paolo (2011) Assessing causal relationships in genomics: from Bradford-Hill criteria to complex gene-environment interactions and directed acyclic graphs. Emerging Themes in Epidemiology, 8 (5). ISSN 1742-7622

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Abstract

Observational studies of human health and disease (basic, clinical and epidemiological) are vulnerable to methodological problems -such as selection bias and confounding- that make causal inferences problematic. Gene-disease associations are no exception, as they are commonly investigated using observational designs. A rich body of knowledge exists in medicine and epidemiology on the assessment of causal relationships involving personal and environmental causes of disease; it includes seminal causal criteria developed by Austin Bradford Hill and more recently applied directed acyclic graphs (DAGs). However, such knowledge has seldom been applied to assess causal relationships in clinical genetics and genomics, even in studies aimed at making inferences relevant for human health. Conversely, incorporating genetic causal knowledge into clinical and epidemiological causal reasoning is still a largely unexplored area. As the contribution of genetics to the understanding of disease aetiology becomes more important, causal assessment of genetic and genomic evidence becomes fundamental. The method we develop in this paper provides a simple and rigorous first step towards this goal. The present paper is an example of integrative research, i.e., research that integrates knowledge, data, methods, techniques, and reasoning from multiple disciplines, approaches and levels of analysis to generate knowledge that no discipline alone may achieve.

Item Type: Article
Official URL: http://www.ete-online.com/
Additional Information: © 2011 The Authors
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > HA Statistics
H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare. Criminology
R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA0421 Public health. Hygiene. Preventive Medicine
Sets: Departments > Statistics
Rights: http://www.lse.ac.uk/library/usingTheLibrary/academicSupport/OA/depositYourResearch.aspx
Date Deposited: 11 Jun 2012 14:40
URL: http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/44284/

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