Dr Christopher P. Wild, Director at the WHO International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), was in Scotland last week speaking at the Royal Society of Edinburgh on Monday July 10th 2017 in association with the Scottish Cancer Foundation and the Cruden Foundation. He then made his way to Ninewells Hospital and Medical School in Dundee on Tuesday 11th to speak at the annual lecture for the Ninewells Cancer Campaign.

A scientific noun can launch a thousand questions – and the idea of the “gene” did exactly that’ – Dr Wild quotes Siddhartha Mukherjee as he discusses his own proposed scientific noun, aptly named the “exposome”; a concept that has raised many new and interesting questions since its conception in 2005.


In his captivating lecture on Tuesday 11th July 2017, Dr Wild explained that the exposome is a tool that relates exposure to disease by encompassing the vast amount of environmental exposures that an individual may encounter from conception to death.  As morbid as this notion may sound, Dr Wild’s exposome bestows optimism upon the public in the form of a method of cancer prevention. Cancer is likely to affect many of us in some form at one point in our lives and a minority percentage of cancers can be attributed to our genetics, suggesting that environmental factors could have a major influence on the causality of specific cancers. The aim of the exposome is to capture a greater scope of exposures that might lead to a more complete set of data that will allow scientists to generate new hypotheses and gain a comprehensive knowledge of the mutational events caused by these exposures.

fullsizerender.jpgThere are three domains of the exposome; general external, specific external and internal. The exposures range from factors such as climate and lifestyle (external) to internal molecular pathways and biological factors within an individual and can be captured using personal sensors, biomarkers, GIS and omics technology.


Analogous with the gene, the exposome is an exciting concept that has and will continue to spark conversations within various scientific fields and hopefully lead to a more comprehensive understanding of how certain cancers are caused and how we can prevent the risk of cancer individually and globally.

Micha Thompson
Digital Communications Assistant at the SCPN

For more information on Dr Wild’s concept, you can access the articles below in the links that follow:
1. The Exposome: from Concept to Utility https://academic.oup.com/ije/article-lookup/doi/10.1093/ije/dyr236
2. The Exposome Concept: a Challenge and a Potential Driver for Environmental Health Research http://err.ersjournals.com/content/25/140/124
3. Measuring The Exposome: a Powerful Basis for Evaluating Environmental Exposures and Cancer Risk http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/em.21777/full
4. Complementing the Genome with an “Exposome”: The Outstanding Challenge of Environmental Exposure Measurement in Molecular Epidemiology http://cebp.aacrjournals.org/content/14/8/1847