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Multifactorial Inheritance

  • In: Encyclopedia of Epidemiology
  • Edited by: Sarah Boslaugh
  • Subject:Public Health (general), Public Health Research Methods , Epidemiology & Biostatistics

The multifactorial inheritance model applies to diseases that depend on multiple genetic loci (polygenic) and the additional contribution of environmental factors. Multifactorial diseases are the result of the interplay of multiple environmental risk factors with more than one gene, where these multiple genes are viewed as susceptibility genes. In this model, genes may increase an individual's susceptibility to a particular disease, but the actual expression of the disease depends on the extent to which the individual encounters certain environmental exposures during embryogenesis or throughout his or her life.

Multifactorial diseases include birth defects such as neural tube defects, developmental disabilities such as autism and common adult-onset diseases such as cancer, diabetes mellitus, hypertension, and heart disease. In fact, most geneticists and epidemiologists today believe that the ...

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