Use of the “Exposome” in the Practice of Epidemiology: A Primer on -Omic Technologies

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Abstract

The exposome has been defined as the totality of exposures individuals experience over the course of their lives and how those exposures affect health. Three domains of the exposome have been identified: internal, specific external, and general external. Internal factors are those that are unique to the individual, and specific external factors include occupational exposures and lifestyle factors. The general external domain includes sociodemographic factors such as educational level and financial status. Eliciting information on the exposome is daunting and not feasible at present; the undertaking may never be fully realized. A variety of tools have been identified to measure the exposome. Biomarker measurements will be one of the major tools in exposomic studies. However, exposure data can also be obtained from other sources such as sensors, geographic information systems, and conventional tools such as survey instruments. Proof-of-concept studies are being conducted that show the promise of exposomic investigation and the integration of different kinds of data. The inherent value of exposomic data in epidemiologic studies is that they can provide greater understanding of the relationships among a broad range of chemical and other risk factors and health conditions and ultimately lead to more effective and efficient disease prevention and control.

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