Monday, September 17, 2007

I want my Genome!! What about your cholesterol?

Today I read something that blew me away! While Myriad is hammering away on NYC TV to get your BRCA test. 10-15% of all breast cancer patients have BRCA mutations in either 1 or 2. These tests cost over 3000 USD a piece, even worse, there are very few clinical changes that result from positivity of either mutation.

The stat that hit me like a punch in the nose was "80 per cent of women in the US between 18 and 44 don't know their cholesterol level" I couldn't believe it! This according to a recent survey by the Society for Women's Health Research (SWHR). This non-profit agency "encourages the study of sex differences between women and men that affect the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of disease".

This is what I find funny. A patented gene test can have a multi-million dollar ad campaign, but women's heart health gets barely a whisper. Despite heart disease being a much bigger killer in women. If you thought carrier status for breast cancer was a big deal. Having an elevated cholesterol is the closest thing to having a heart attack. Even worse, there are some simple preventative things you can do for cholesterol and it doesn't include surgery or medications.

So while we all bask in the glory of The Personal Genome Project and 23andMe, we need to get a grip. Just because you can get your genome sequenced, doesn't mean it will tell you your cholesterol level. Clinical acumen is what is required for personalized medicine, not technology alone.

The Sherpa says: According to this study "More than half of the women 18-44 surveyed were concerned about cholesterol, but the vast majority weren’t aware of their personal cholesterol level and one-quarter did not even know how cholesterol is tested" Why? Because we don't have Quest lab reps stopping by your PMDs office telling you that you MUST test women's cholesterol. That means asking your physician to check your cholesterol is up to you!

1 comment:

Lennon said...

Excellent points. And of course direct-to-consumer ads are often based on fear ... and breast cancer seems a lot scarier than a high cholesterol reading.

But maybe today it also comes down to who the USPTO says owns your genome. Myriad can still (for a few more years) demand $3000 from you before you're allowed to see your own genomic sequence, at least in the BRCA1/2 region - that's not the case for finding out your own cholesterol levels.

Let's hope it's not too long before we can get unfettered access to both - our own cholesterol levels and our genomes - along with the information to understand the two together.