The Future of Occupationally Related Diffuse Lung Disease

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In the last 10 years alone, several new occupational lung diseases have been described. Progress in improving measurements of exposures and risk factors for exposure-related diseases has turned to molecular epidemiology and genomics methods in recent years. There has been a dramatic increase in the number of studies investigating genetic associations and biomarkers in occupationally related diffuse lung diseases. Specifically, identifying common variant genetic polymorphisms that may have low penetrance (modest relative risk), but impart a high population-attributable risk of disease when exposure occurs, has been a recent research focus. Candidate gene methodology is currently the most popular approach, but genome-wide association studies are now more feasible for studying gene–environment interactions. The results of these studies will better define populations at particularly high risk of disease after exposure, but it is important to realize that the mainstay of prevention for occupationally related diffuse lung disease remains prevention and control of airborne exposures.

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