Year : 2008 | Volume
: 1 | Issue : 4 | Page : 7-
How Would Knowledge of my Genetic Make-up affect my Lifestyle
|How to cite this article:|
Gerth A. How Would Knowledge of my Genetic Make-up affect my Lifestyle.Young Scientists J 2008;1:7-7
|How to cite this URL:|
Gerth A. How Would Knowledge of my Genetic Make-up affect my Lifestyle. Young Scientists J [serial online] 2008 [cited 2013 Jun 19 ];1:7-7
Available from: http://www.ysjournal.com/text.asp?2008/1/4/7/43870
In theory, knowledge of my genetic make-up should allow me to reduce my risk in a range of illnesses such as Coronary Heart Disease, Cancer and Diabetes. I could follow a strict diet, exercise more regularly or even have my ovaries removed. Just because I could do this, does not mean I or anyone else would.
Firstly will I truly understand the implications of my genetic make-up? Obviously it will not be presented to me in its raw form of Gs, As, Ts and Cs but even so my genome will have a different affect on my life if, being informed that my risk of acquiring breast cancer is doubled, which sounds terrifying, means a rise from 0.2% to 0.4% or a 25% to 50% rise. If the statistics and information are not properly explained it could leave me scared and confused and as a result I will either carry out an extreme change in lifestyle or decide to completely ignore the knowledge.
Then there is the question as to whether this knowledge would be restricted to just me or to others as well. If my genome was known only by me and my doctor, assuming that I understood it, I may make an effort to go for more check-ups but I do not believe it would have a drastic effect on my lifestyle. No-one can deny that smoking causes lung cancer, but that does not stop people from doing it, they simply believe that they will be the lucky one who will live to a healthy one hundred years old on twenty cigarettes a day, but of course the chances of that are slim. As a race we have an irrational belief that we will be the one to buck the trend, soldiers would never have gone to the front in WWI if they did not believe that they would be one of the few to survive. Even so we must take risks in life. I would rather die at the age of 70 still lucid, than still exist at the age of 100 even though who I am died at 75 and I am now a slowly decaying, incontinent, dementia ridden shell.
The above relies on me being completely selfish and things start to change when I take into consideration loved ones, in particular children and partners. If I knew that I had a one in two chance of passing a debilitating illness onto my children, I may suddenly become an advocate for IVF. Even if not, if I am fortunate enough to have one healthy child I would be unlikely to take that risk again, however, if the risk is one in four then I think I would, it all boils down to an irrational belief in statistics.
If I knew that I was likely to die by the age of thirty I would be unlikely to marry and I would make the effort to truly live. I would still pursue that career in medicine even though I know that I may die before I reach my desired specialism. Whether I had a life shortening illness or not I would want to live life to the full and only pursue paths that I would enjoy, but I would not inflict the pain of my loss on additional loved ones.
If my genetic make-up was known to the whole world, printed on my forehead, I think that social pressures would result in a greater impact on my life. If I had an increased risk of heart attack I do not know if I could cope with the accusing looks from others as I ate my McDonalds. It is all very well living in denial when you are not constantly being guilt-tripped by your peers. Social interaction would be more complex, if it was known that I had only a few years left to live, people would treat me differently. It would move control of my lifestyle away from me to others. Insurance companies would charge an arm and a leg for life or health insurance. Universities would not want to invest in my future, making pursuing that career in medicine almost impossible.
Knowing your genetic make-up ideally should have no impact upon your life, beyond that of going for the odd extra check-up and ensuring that your assets are organised and settled. For some, it will encourage them to live; for others, they will do everything for that bit longer on earth. If we are already living life to the full and living healthily so that we feel good and can participate in all activities, we are living, and that should never be replaced with existing for the sake of a few more years.