NUR 631 What is the difference between epigenetics and genetics?

  1. Genetics is defined as the study of genes and heredity, where certain traits are passed from parents to children as result of changes to DNA sequence (National Institute of General Medical Science, n.d.). Epigenetics is defined as the study of behaviors and environment that can cause changes in the way genes work (What is Epigenetics?, 2022) Unlike genetics, epigenetics changes can be reversed and do not change DNA sequences (What is Epigenetics?, 2022). An example of epigenetics I came across was changes in DNA methylation in smokers versus nonsmokers. When looking at studies of the AHRR gene in people who smoke, there were less findings of DNA methylation in comparison to nonsmokers (What is Epigenetics?, 2022). However, if smokers quit there has been evidence of increased DNA methylation in this gene over time (What is Epigenetics?, 2022).
  2. As mentioned above, people who smoke can develop changes in DNA methylation. The role of a nurse practitioner would be to educate on the health risks and counsel the patient in a compassionate way on the negative health effects of their lifestyle choice. Another example I came across is nutrition during a mother’s pregnancy and the effects on the baby. A mother’s environment and the food she eats during pregnancy can greatly effect the babies epigenetics (What is Epigenetics?, 2022). Epigenetic changes established during pregnancy can sometimes remain for decades and might predispose the baby to certain diseases (What is Epigenetics, 2022). So the role of an informed and compassionate nurse practitioner would be of great significance to a pregnant patient unaware of the importance of nutrition and environment during pregnancy term.
  3. Hyperplasia, metaplasia, and dysplasia are all terms referring to abnormal cell growth. As seen in epigenetic disorders, these three types of abnormal cell growth are all reversible because they’re results of a stimulus (Cancer Terms | SEER Training, n.d.). Hyperplasia is defined as an abnormal increase in cells, which are within a normal tissue component and arranged in a normal fashion with subsequent growth of the affected part (Cancer Terms | SEER Training, n.d.) An example of this is thyroid hyperplasia, which is enlargement of the thyroid gland caused by abnormal growth of epithelial cells lining the follicles (Cancer Terms | SEER Training, n.d.). Metaplasia refers to the replacement of a mature cell type with another mature cell type (Cancer Terms | SEER Training, n.d.). An example of metaplasia is squamous metaplasia of the respiratory columnar epithelium, which is seen by the metaplastic cough of a smoker (Cancer Terms | SEER Training, n.d.). Dysplasia refers to the replacement of one mature cell type with a lesser mature cell type; as seen in the dysplasia of cervix epithelium (Cancer Terms | SEER Training, n.d.).


Cancer Terms | SEER Training. (n.d.).

National Institute of General Medical Sciences. (n.d.). National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS).

What is Epigenetics? | CDC. (2022, August 15). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.,and%20your%20behaviors%20and%20environment.

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NUR 631 Topic 1 DQ 2

Use the “Discussion Forum Sample” to answer two of the following questions.

  1. What is the difference between epigenetics and genetics?
  2. In nurse practitioner clinical practice, how would one apply the principles of epigenetics when determining the plan of care for a patient?
  3. What is the difference between hyperplasia, dysplasia, and metaplasia in relation to epigenetic disorders?

Epigenetics involves the relationship between our gene activity and our environment. In epigenetics, gene activity is influenced but the gene sequence is unchanged. These changes are often reversible (Pajouhesh, 2021). 

Genetics is the study of genes and heredity. The study of genetics focuses on how certain traits are passed on from parents to their offspring. These traits are the result of changes in the DNA sequence (NIH, 2022).

The difference between epigenetics and genetics is genetics studies the way genetic changes alter the DNA sequence and epigenetics studies the effects of environment and behaviors on the way the genes are expressed (CDC, 2022).

Epigenetics can be used to evaluate how external factors affect our genes and how our genotype interacts and is influenced by our environment. By understanding what influence certain environmental and lifestyle factors play in our genetic activity and how they lead to disease processes we can counsel our patients on modifications they can make to limit the negative effects and optimize the positive. For example, exercise has been known to play a large part in health and well-being. Lack of exercise has also been linked with multiple chronic disease. Epigenetic changes have been shown by research to occur in response to resistance and aerobic exercise. These changes have been shown to occur in skeletal, blood, adipose, and brain tissue. Exercise alters molecular processes in our tissues that cause them to change and adapt leading to the positive effects of exercise (Thunders, 2015). Epigenetics will play a vital role in increasing our awareness of how our interaction with our physical space influences our well-being and emphasizes the importance of holistic and preventative care to reduce the negative impacts of epigenetic changes (Pajouhesh, 2021). 

Pajouhesh, P. (2021). Epigenetics as a tool for personalized and targeted care. UC Davis. Retrieved on May 08, 2023, from

National Institute of Health. (2022). Genetics. Retrieved on May 08, 2023, from

Centers for Disease Control. (2022). Genomics & Precision Health. Retrieved on May 08, 2023, from,and%20your%20behaviors%20and%20environment.

Thunders, M. (2015). Epigenetics: Its understanding is crucial to a sustainable healthcare system. Healthcare, 3(2), 194-204.

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