Research suggests that only 5-10% of cancers are hereditary. That means the non-inherited causes of cancer, including the lifestyle choices we make, like the foods we eat and our physical activity levels, have a direct impact on our overall cancer risk. In addition to known modifiable risk factors like smoking, alcohol consumption, and obesity, researchers are still trying to understand how other factors, like dietary, environmental exposures, stress, and social factors, might also affect our risk.
The Park Lab examines relationships between lifestyle and environmental exposures and disease risk as well as their interactions with genetics and epigenetics. Epigenetics, or the study of modifications to the DNA that result in a change in phenotype that is heritable but does not involve DNA mutation, lies at the intersection of nature and nurture, blending the impact of the DNA that we are born with the influence of our environment. We also work on identifying biomarkers for lifestyle and environmental exposures and disease status. We believe that the more we know about individuals, the better we can predict their disease risk and prognosis and the better their chances for disease prevention and survival.