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Section of Genetics

Genetic Epidemiology Group


It has long been recognized that family members of an individual with cancer are themselves at an increased risk of developing cancer. This familial clustering may stem from inherited variation in specific genes, from shared environmental exposures among family members, or from interaction between specific genetic and environmental factors. Identifying genetic variants that increase the risk of common cancers, and determining how these genetic effects interact with known environmental risk factors, may make it possible to elucidate why cancers develop and to identify individuals who are at a particularly high risk of developing cancer.

The goals of the Genetic Epidemiology Group (GEP) are:

  • to identify cancer predisposition genes through large-scale case-control studies of specific cancers, including whole-genome scans comprising millions of genetic variants. This work involves leading large consortia that bring together many international groups;

  • to conduct genome sequencing studies of tumour DNA that identify how germline and somatic DNA variation contribute to cancer risk;

  • to identify lifestyle-related and environmental causes of cancer through interrogation of both germline and somatic genetic variation, using Mendelian randomization and mutation signature-type studies; and

  • to contribute to early detection of cancer by estimating how genetic and other biomarkers contribute to cancer risk.


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