Has a Global Family Tree’s Time Arrived?
In the United States alone there are more than 10 million cancer survivors. One out of two men and one out of three women will have some form of cancer during their lifetime. Cancer is the number one killer of the middle-aged and is the number two killer of children. What's going on!
An aging population is always touted as a major contributor but age can't account for the increasing incidence of testicular and breast cancer in men and women under forty in the industrialized world and it certainly can't explain the increasing rise of cancer in children.
The official launch of the "War on Cancer" in the U.S. is almost four decades old now. More than $69 billion of taxpayer money has been spent along with incredible private donations yet many forms of the disease are still devastating our families, friends and neighbors. Despite more accurate imaging tools and better treatment protocols greater than 50% of those diagnosed with cancer will not last a decade. Cancer appears to be the price we pay for living in an industrialized society.
Since its inception the "War on Cancer" has focused on screening, diagnosis and treatment of the disease but not about prevention. In the United States alone we spend $100 billion in direct treatment costs yearly but a pittance for prevention. Why?
Cancer is clearly a disease of our personal environment altering the function our genes. How we live and where we work certainly affects our chances of being devastated by the disease. To truly go after prevention we need to attack the problem one family tree at a time. With the growing power of the Internet we now have the tools to harness our global community in defeating our common enemy.
By building a family tree with medical and lifestyle data you will begin to uncover information that will benefit not only you and your immediate family but also generations to come. As more families join in, the roots will begin to intertwine. Barry Commoner's 1st law of ecology states, "Everything is Connected to Everything Else." If you follow your family's roots back just thee generations you might be very surprised to discover who connects to your tree.
When Princess Diana was the center of the world's attention it was discovered that her ancestry extended to some twenty to thirty million Americans including Nancy Reagan, Brooke Shields, Mark Twain and several presidents, along with the Rockefellers, the Goodriches and Fords. It is hard to fathom but when you start into the world of cousins, not only yours but your parents, grandparents and beyond, your family tree really increases dramatically.
Continuing research on the genome will uncover the genetic intricacies of diseases but a grassroots effort to uncover the environmental component of cancer is far overdue. This important information is about where people live and work, their lifestyles, the diseases they have come up against and their family histories. In other words, millions of concerned people need to take the time to build their own personal environment database which when combined will rival the Human Genome Project.
This sounds quite lofty and is certainly not an easy fix but it is doable, especially if we concentrate our first efforts on just one form of the disease - breast cancer. As one of the most organized and popularly supported medical causes on the planet, creating the database should be a breeze. All we have to do is sit down and spend some time at our computers thinking and answering questions.
Can you begin to imagine how powerful a million or two family trees will become that includes lifestyle and medical histories? This is where we ought to be looking for disease causes! Now go a little deeper and imagine genomic analysis of thousands of cancer patients juxtaposed on the family tree data. With that sort of data you really begin to zero in on personalized care and prevention of the many diseases of industrialized society.
When Barry Commoner talks about "connected" from an ecological point of view, his examples are usually about the negative effects of our collective actions on our earth - the behaviors that are contributing to our disease load. Rarely does anyone talk about how solutions are interconnected and contribute to positive actions. By taking the time to build a medical and lifestyle family tree you will be contributing one positive action that will affect not only you and your immediate family but all the family to which you will be connected in the future……….and maybe that is all of mankind. The time is now for prevention and cure to stand as equals!