Environmental health in the biology century: Transitions from population to personalized prevention

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article


Within the last decade, for the first time in human history, deaths from chronic diseases have exceeded mortality from acute causes worldwide. These chronic diseases encompass a spectrum of cancers, cardiovascular diseases, neurological diseases, and the emerging consequences of obesity and over nutrition. Further, there are more people today who are cancer survivors as well as people who are afflicted with multiple chronic diseases. This results in an emerging new group of susceptible populations with complex biology’s that will drive the development of new experimental models. Since environmental exposures have a profound impact from the etiology of disease through progression and response to therapeutic and preventive interventions, a new appreciation of the role of environmental health has emerged. This mini-review will attempt to provide a global perspective on the transitions that have occurred in environmental health over the last 200 years and how these transitions are impacting diverse populations globally. The extraordinary advances in our understanding of the biology of normal development and the molecular progression of disease processes have created unprecedented opportunities for the translation of basic science to therapy and prevention. The need to integrate findings from the biological, physical, engineering, social, and behavioral sciences, sometimes called convergence, points to an imperative to develop new team science approaches to address the health consequences of environmental exposures. Finally, as it is increasingly recognized that disease outbreaks in one part of the world are no longer isolated from global impacts, there is a need to assure that our next generations of trained scientists have grounding in global collaborations. Impact statement: There is a rapidly occurring, dynamic change, in the causes of morbidity and mortality in different populations across the globe. More people today are being diagnosed and treated for chronic diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes than ever before. Environmental exposures across the lifespan have a profound impact on the outcomes of these chronic diseases. Further, there are more people living today who have survived their therapy from these diagnoses and who are now differentially susceptible to environmental exposures. Collectively, this poses both the challenge and opportunity to the experimental biology and medicine community to build new models that reflect this changing human situation. The extraordinary advances in our understanding of the biology of disease provide extraordinary insights for both therapeutic and prevention strategies. Multidisciplinary teams including biological, physical, engineering and social and behavioral scientists will be needed to address this problem over the next several decades.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalExperimental Biology and Medicine
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 2019



  • biomarkers
  • carcinogenesis
  • cardiovascular
  • Epidemiology
  • genotoxicity
  • medicine/oncology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)

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