Well Being

Embryonic Screening For Breast Cancer Genes

By  | 

The UK may soon make it possible for women with a family history of breast cancer who are undergoing IVF to screen their embryos for breast cancer genes. (Telegraph, April 28, 2005) And how will they decide whether to make this common practice? Results from a questionnaire of potential patients conducted by the Unversity College London. In other words, if there’s demand and thus profit to be made.

Breast cancer is a multifactorial disease; more than one risk factor leads to its manifestation. There have been five genes implicated in the development of breast cancer: BRCA-1, BRCA-2, P53, ATM, and P65. None of them on their own causes cancer 100% of the time.

Apart from genes, other risk factors include age, age of first period, age at first live birth, number of mother, sister(s), and/or daughters with breast cancer, number of previous breast biopsies (whether positive or negative), and at least one biopsy with atypical hyperplasia. Then there are environmental and lifestyle factors such as use of birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy, high-fat diet, alcohol, physical activity, and obesity.

So, even if you knew your genetic profile, there are still enough unknowns about breast cancer that it would be difficult to say definitively whether you would be afflicted by the disease or not. And, sad to say, there are other life-ending events that might occur before you even had the chance to develop breast cancer.

Most of us will indulge in unhealthy behavior that even the most perfect genes cannot overcome. Can we say that a life is not worth living simply because of the possibility that a person might eventually be affected by cancer, heart disease, diabetes, or other chronic diseases? If so, then all of us might as well throw in the towel right now.