This article is copyright protected. Any distribution without written consent from S. Karger AG, Basel is a violation of the copyright. The definitive version is available from www.karger.com/journals/hhe/Family based studies have underpinned many successes in uncovering the causes of monogenic and oligogenic diseases. Now research is focussing on the identification and characterisation of genes underlying common diseases and it is widely accepted that these studies will require large population based samples. Population based family study designs have the potential to facilitate the analysis of the effects of both genes and environment. These types of studies integrate the population based approaches of classic epidemiology and the methods enabling the analysis of correlations between relatives sharing both genes and environment. The extent to which such studies are feasible will depend upon population- and disease-specific factors. To review this topic, a symposium was held to present and discuss the costs, requirements and advantages of population based family study designs. This article summarises the features of the meeting held at The University of Sheffield, August 2006
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