Review of “The Gene: An Intimate History” by Siddhartha Mukherjee

Review of 'The Gene: An Intimate History' by Siddhartha MukherjeeI’ve been looking forward to reading Siddhartha Mukherjee’s latest book, “The Gene: An Intimate History”, since it was published last year.

His Pulitzer prize-winning “The Emperor of All Maladies” is one of the most interesting and informative books about cancer that I’ve read. In addition, now that genome sequencing and other forms of genetic testing are becoming more accessible and more common, I hoped this new book would provide some insights about where we are in all of this and what we might realistically expect from more expansive genetic testing in the years to come.

The implications of what has been learned about the gene and what it means for future generations are very personal for Mukherjee, as he reveals in sharing the stories of several family members who have been affected by mental illness. He comes back to these stories and how they relate to our growing understanding of the biology of inherited disease risk at various times in the book. Continue reading

Charity Review: Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation

Reviewing the charity, Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation.One of the best ways to help in the fight against cancer is by making a donation in support of cancer research. But deciding which organizations will make the most effective use of our contributions requires a little homework.

I’ve shared my ideas in earlier posts on contributing to breast cancer charities and focusing on charities that support cancer research specifically. This post is the third in a series in which we’re taking a closer look at individual charities that focus primarily on cancer research.

When it comes to donations, making a choice based on value for our money means considering several factors for any individual charity. These include how the organization uses the money it raises, its financial health, and how transparent it is about what has been accomplished with the contributions it has received. In this post, we’ll review the Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation, including its mission and approach, history, notable financial facts and results reporting. Continue reading

Cancer Risk and the Environment

The development of cancer is heavily influenced by external factors, a recent study finds.About a year ago, a study published in the journal Science received a lot of attention and comment because it seemed to suggest that most cancers were mainly the result of random mutations or “bad luck.”  I wrote about the study, including what commenters identified as some of its major weaknesses, in a post last January on Cancer Risk and “Bad Luck.”

A new study by a different team, published recently in Nature, revisits the question. It expands on the analysis in last year’s study and examines the question using several different approaches. It arrives at the conclusions that the development of cancer is heavily influenced by external factors. Continue reading

Camp Lejeune, Environmental Toxins And Breast Cancer Risk

What are the links between environmental toxins and breast cancer risk?It’s recognized that environmental factors play a role in the development of many types of cancer, including breast cancer.  But, unfortunately, there are more questions than there are answers right now about the extent of that role. Studies so far have not been able to clarify how and to what extent exposures to harmful substances in the environment increase our risk for breast cancer.

An opportunity to gain some insight on this issue could potentially come from a study now underway of male breast cancer and exposure to contaminated drinking water at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.  Results from the study are expected some time this year.

Continue reading

Cancer Risk and “Bad Luck”

How much cancer risk is related mostly to random genetic mutations?Are a large proportion of cancer cases mainly the result of “bad luck”? That is certainly the impression given by recent media reports about a study conducted by researchers at Johns Hopkins University and published in the journal Science.

What did the researchers do and what did this study actually show? Is it really time to reconsider our understanding of cancer and its causes? Continue reading