We are all going to die.
This seems to be one of the few things that we humans all can agree upon.
Most of us don’t know when and there’s no escaping the fact that we all have an expiration date.
Over the last few years there is increased interest and availability of genetic testing. As a result, the age old debate of Nature vs Nurture is back on the minds of many people.
The idea that my genes can directly impact my health has fascinated me for years. I was a biochemistry major in college and I especially enjoyed my genetics and psychobiology classes.
So here I am, pondering Life and Death. Genetics vs Lifestyle. Accept vs Adjust.
One of my relatives has a saying, “ You gotta die of something, right?”.
I agree and I just wish it would be of something other than cancer or heart disease!
The idea to write this blog came to me a few weeks ago and below is the funny story that first made me laugh and then got me thinking.
It all started when my doctor handed me the results from my genetic screening test. I was relieved to see that it was negative for known mutations that can lead various types of cancer including breast, uterine, colon and ovarian.
In my excitement , I happily shared the news with a few of my family members on Facebook.
In a Private Message to them, I wrote:
Relative 1: Yay!
Me: We have good genes.
Relative 2: Awwww good!
Relative 3: I had good jeans once, I wore them all the time. I wore them while smoking, drinking, eating greasy food. I wore them while working doing all sorts of things like working with chemical solvents, insulation, paints and while cleaning up messes from backed up sewer pipes. So those jean that were once good are now stained torn and thread bare. But such is life. LOL
For many, Such Is Life is a common mindset and attitude. This, along with, Live and Let Live, Don’t Worry- Be Happy, Life is Short are very popular paradigms.
The Genetics vs Lifestyle Debate
My genetic test results combined with the PM response from smart aleck relative #3 got me asking questions like:
How much do genetic factors contribute to cancer?
How much of this dreaded disease if out of our control?
I was surprised when I researched and discovered that only 5-10% of cancers have a hereditary component and that 90-95% of cancers are caused by environmental or lifestyle factors.
The research and evidence indicates that of all cancer-related deaths, 30%-35% are linked to diet, 25%-30% are due to tobacco, 10%-20% are linked to obesity, about 15%-20% are due to infections, and the remaining percentages are due to other factors like radiation, alcohol consumption, stress, physical inactivity and environmental pollutants.
Those statistics shows that a great number cancer risk factors are in our control. But are they really? Control can be a funny thing and isn’t as easy as it sounds.
Realistically, what percentage of Americans really want to, or are able to, limit and regulate what they ingest and how much they move?
I don’t know about you but I love a good, juicy hamburger every now and then.
Accept vs Adjust
Do we simply accept that cancer happens in this toxic world of ours or do we adjust our habits in hopes of preventing or delaying it?
Can a healthy diet and active lifestyle prevent cancer?
In our polluted and stressful world, does any of this really matter?
We are surrounded by environmental pollutants and UV rays everyday, does that extra piece of broccoli really help?
The Good News
Medical studies have shown that yes, you can help decrease your odds of getting cancer through healthy choices and good habits. Knowledge and awareness of the risk factors have increased over the last four decades.
Protection from sun exposure has improved greatly over the last 20 years with increased availability of broad spectrum sunscreen and clothing with UV coverage.
The Bad News
We live in a toxic and stressful world and there are no guarantees in life.
A high percentage of Americans want to enjoy life and eat and drink whatever the hell they want. You gotta die of something, right?
Addictions are real and difficult to overcome. The food and tobacco industries have not helped to reduce in our every increasing desire for sugar, fat, salt and nicotine.
There is a also a mindset battle that pits “modifying lifestyle” against the “live and let live” attitude.
Like most tough questions in life, there are no easy answers.
All I can only do is what’s best for me personally and try to set a good example for others.
I can work to educate and increase awareness.
But no one likes to be told what to do and the appetite for being lectured and harangued is low in these fiercely independent and freedom loving United States.
Everyone has a Choice. We value our personal freedom.
We all make daily decisions on how we want to live and what we put in our bodies.
I have the freedom to live how I want, knowing that it could be positively or negatively impacting my health. It’s nice to have options.
I also have the power to observe what I see and write about it in this blog.
You have the choice to read my words and either ignore them or take action to change something in your life as a result.
Life is short, right?