Sunday, November 15, 2009

Breast Cancer in Women and Men, BRCA1 and 2, and the Patenting of Natural Genes

I want to pass on information about a documentary on breast cancer caused by the BRCA1 and 2 gene mutations. Breast cancer does not solely affect women. I just went for my yearly mammography, and was asked what more I thought my teacher's health trust could do. I explained that they should educate both women and men about breast cancer gene mutations, discuss how a family history of breast and ovarian cancer can be the red flags for both women and men to explore the possibility they may need genetic screening to determine whether or not they have the mutation.

Knowledge is power. Knowing that you have the mutation gives you the power to determine how you will live and deal with possibilities, rather than not know, be surprised by a late-stage cancer diagnosis, and possibly die. Knowing you don't have the mutation takes away a lifetime of worry. Knowledge of whether or not you have the mutation may also inform your decision on whether or not to have children. Men are the underserved population in this type of cancer. This needs to change so that men can also have the knowledge and power to determine their course in life, and also lift the silence about male breast cancer. I invite men to join women in educating and disseminating information about all forms of breast cancer. Please pass this along to all women and men you know and love. Here is the link to the documentary:

A key component to the large amounts of people who need genetic screening, actually getting the screening for BRCA1 and 2, or any other genetic mutation, is the availablity and cost of the screening. This is greatly impacted when companies are allowed to patent genes that naturally occur in nature. Ethically, I believe individuals, corporations and/or governments should never be legally allowed to patent natural genes and life processes. This grants the patent-holder untoward and dangerous power over nature and the human population. Financially, this allows companies to charge customers thousands of dollars and reduces the availability of tests because the number and cost of tests is determined by one company, the patent-holder. Health care is a right. The poor should not "be granted" a different level of care or access to testing than the rich, who can afford to go anywhere in the world for the best health care, testing, genetic screening, or treatment.

Rather than competition for services and profits, I'd prefer cooperation for the betterment of all. Competition automatically creates win-lose situations. In health care, losing may mean horrible pain and death. Cooperation invites win-win situations. Here is a link to an article about the legality of patenting natural genes in relation to health care:

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