Saturday, October 25, 2014

If you were told you were at high risk of getting cancer, what would you do?

So genomics is progressing. The newest research shows that through genomics they can account for the causes of 50% of breast cancer cases. They also state that if you are at high risk, you can lower your risk by maintaining a healthy lifestyle - good weight, not smoking etc.

"When researchers looked at the top 25% of risk scores, they found that these would account for about half of breast cancer cases in the future. Using previous models, genetic variants could account for only 35% of future cancer cases...."

"The model found that lifestyle factors, which are in a woman’s control, can generally lower the genetic risk by half. And the higher a woman’s genetic risk, the more she can reduce it with healthy behaviors. So avoiding excessive amounts of alcohol and smoking, or maintaining a healthy weight, for example, can bring a genetic risk of 30% down to around 15%, while a woman with a 4% genetic risk of developing breast cancer can reduce her risk by 2%."

So those statements beg a few questions.
  1. What would you do if you were told if you were at high risk of getting breast or any other kind of cancer?
  2. Does the high risk seem as much of a concern if you can lower it by maintaining a healthy lifestyle?
Other research has talked about what you do at a younger age can impact your cancer risk later. But do teenagers really care about healthy lifestyles? The teenagers I know often eat a lot of junk food, drink soda and other sugary drinks, and are not as concerned with getting a healthy meal three times a day. Then twenty-somethings seem to switch to some healthier habits as they mature and settle down. College is a big time for alcohol consumption and other risky behaviors. In recent decades the rates of teen smoking are way down. I know these statements are generalizations and there are exceptions but I am using them to make a point.

So if you knew at 15 that you were going to develop breast or any other cancer at age 50, would you change your lifestyle?  Or at 15 are you less concerned with cancer and more concerned with being a teenager and getting in to college?

My opinion is that at 19 at my first cancer diagnosis, I was somewhat concerned with how long I would live, accepted the fact (eventually) that I was at higher risk of another cancer, and that I was going to live my life as I wanted.

When I was at the end of my treatment - surgery and radioactive iodine - I was told to live a healthy lifestyle and not to take unnecessary risks. My thoughts were summed up as I would rather live my life as I wanted than sit around waiting for another cancer visit. I did eat relatively healthily but I also traveled a lot, drank alcohol and smoked (yes!) cigarettes.

I don't really want any predictive modelling done on me, any more than a friend of mine could get me to go see a psychic. I'm happy with my life, I wish I was healthier but I can't undo the past.


Dawn said...

I think that anyone who smokes already is aware that the are at a very high risk for cancer. Period. This has been known for many many years. So yes, many people want to "do what they want" and live their life how they want. I just don't see how smoking is something people want. It is an addiction that controls them.

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