In biology seminar the other day we started discussing a topic that I personally find very interesting. Have any of you hear about 23 and me? It is a company that provides DNA analysis, along with possible risk factors for diseases. It’s a really cool idea, and the fact that anyone (well who can afford it, although it is not very expensive) can send in a blood sample and get their results, but should we be doing it? Do we really need to get this information, does it actually help us, or does it cause more harm? Do I really need to know that I might have a 3% higher risk than the general population of developing breast cancer?
Some might argue that knowing this might help eliminate things from our environment that further increase or chances of getting this disease. If I know I have an increased chance of brain cancer, I would eliminate other things that might cause it. My opinion is that you should be implementing these changes anyway, and that if you were going to you would. Why should I wait to know my risk in order to be motivated to eat healthier, not smoke, or exercise more. I should be doing that regardless.
For me though the biggest problem is should I know, or does it just create a self-perpetuating cycle. If I know I’m at risk for it, it stands to reason I am much more likely to worry about it, for it to occupy my thoughts more than it would. But why should a disease that I might not get, or even if I do get it, cause me undue stress before I even have it, if in fact I ever do. Does the stress of knowing, make it more likely to actually get something you might not have? Does it become a self-fulfilling prophecy?
If I think back to that magical time before.. before the autoimmune arthritis that has made my body its home, that has started a war that I might never see end… would I have wanted to know. Would I have wanted to know that I would have, could have, got this awful disease. NO! It would have tainted that before, made it less carefree. Why would I have wanted to live with that knowledge, it wouldn’t have changed the outcome, wouldn’t have changed how my life is now, but it would have changed how my life was then, and not for the better. I already have to live with this disease now, with the harsh realities and devastation of it. I am so glad for that period where I didn’t know what was coming, didn’t need to, when the words arthritis, autoimmune, chronic meant very little to me. If I could go back and chose to know, I would choose not to, because sometimes knowledge isn’t power, it’s not that silver lining we think it is. Knowledge isn’t always a blessing, sometimes it’s a curse. Sometimes it’s just better not to know.
(Just so you know I have not participated in 23 and me, and all of this is merely hypothetical)