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As our understanding of genetics has improved, genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have identified numerous variants associated with lifestyle behaviours and health outcomes. However, what is sometimes overlooked is the possibility that genetic variants identified in GWAS of disease might reflect the effect of modifiable risk factors as well as direct genetic effects. We discuss this possibility with illustrative examples from tobacco and alcohol research, in which genetic variants that predict behavioural phenotypes have been seen in GWAS of diseases known to be causally related to these behaviours. This consideration has implications for the interpretation of GWAS findings.

Original publication

DOI

10.1371/journal.pgen.1005765

Type

Journal article

Journal

PLoS Genet

Publication Date

02/2016

Volume

12

Keywords

Alcohol Dehydrogenase, Environment, Ethanol, Genetic Predisposition to Disease, Genome-Wide Association Study, Genotype, Humans, Mendelian Randomization Analysis, Risk Factors, Smoking