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Doody's Review ServiceReviewer: Roger W. Melvold, PhD (Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine)
Description: This book presents an overview of (1) the principles of the ways in which genes can influence disease, and (2) the methods by which such influences can be detected, measured, and characterized. It serves primarily as a survey of these topics, rather than as an in-depth exploration of each.
Purpose: The book is intended by the author to serve as an introduction to genetic epidemiology. This serves a worthy purpose, particularly in light of the current explosion of new information on the human genome and of human traits and diseases having a genetic basis. The work serves well as an overview for acquainting those not familiar with the field with the scope of this area.
Audience: The book is primarily directed at biomedical scientists and geneticists, but it is hoped that it will be useful to more general biologists and to anthropologists.
Features: Rather than restricting itself to diseases that are entirely attributable to single genes, the book does an excellent job of illustrating the broad scope of genetically related diseases, particularly those that must be studied by analyzing variation among kinships and populations. The table of contents and indexes are appropriately designed. The sections dealing with statistical methods require some familiarity with statistics, but they primarily serve to illustrate the logic behind the process rather than to deal with mathematical proofs and derivations. The author also provides an evolutionary viewpoint for human genetic disease in discussing effects of population movements, selection, etc. Authorities in some areas are likely to be unsatisfied by the references provided for their particular areas of expertise, but the survey approach of the text is probably served appropriately by using review articles, etc., although more of these would have been welcome.
Assessment: The survey nature of the book lessens its utility to those already well acquainted with the field, and it would be not appropriate as a course textbook. However, it would be a most useful reference for those who wish to familiarize themselves with the area in general and to gain some comprehension of its methodologies. It would be an appropriate selection for libraries and bookstores.