Media Centre – IARC News


The Exposome: A Powerful Approach for Evaluating Environmental Exposures and

Their Influences on Human Disease

Workshop: February 25-26, 2010
NAS Building, Auditorium
2100 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20001
Visit Workshop Website

In an exciting move, the US National Academy of Sciences is organizing a workshop based on the “exposome”, a concept developed by Dr Christopher Wild, now Director of the International Agency for Research on Cancer. This provides much needed emphasis on the importance of exposure assessment in identifying the environmental causes of chronic diseases such as cancer.

The concept of exposome, defined by Dr Christopher Wild in a landmark publication, in 2005 (Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, August 2005 14; 1847), finds its origin in the need for (cancer) scientists to devise, parallel to the concept of the genome, and coined on the same conceptual grid, a methodological tool for environmental exposure assessment.

“The imbalance in measurement precision of genes and environment has consequences, most fundamentally in compromising the ability to fully derive public health benefits from expenditure on the human genome […]. There is a desperate need to develop methods with the same precision for an individual’s environmental exposure as we have for the individual’s genome. I would like to suggest that there is need for an “exposome” to match the “genome.” This concept of an exposome may be useful in drawing attention to the need for methodologic developments in exposure assessment.

At its most complete, the exposome encompasses life-course environmental exposures (including lifestyle factors), from the prenatal period onwards. Developing reliable measurement tools for such a complete exposure history is extremely challenging. Unlike the genome, the exposome is a highly variable and dynamic entity that evolves throughout the lifetime of the individual.” Christopher P. Wild, Complementing the Genome with an “Exposome”: The Outstanding Challenge of Environmental Exposure Measurement in Molecular Epidemiology, Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, August 2005,14;1847.