Thursday, June 23, 2011

I have discovered my ApoE status

I just got my ApoE results back from 23andMe.com.  When I ordered the test, the first question I posed to readers was whether it was wise to even find out whether or not I have the epsilon 4 allele. One commentator, "Agent 86", quoted the ancient Greek philosopher Epictetus for guidance on this issue. In 135 AD, Epictetus argued that one should emotionally separate oneself from those things which are not one's own -- i.e., those things over which one has no control. Therefore, had he known what a gene was at the time, Epictetus would have counted one's genome as among those things that is not one's own. As such, knowing his ApoE status would have been of no consequence either way to Epictetus. I do find it rather easy to take this Epictetusian attitude toward my ApoE status. But because I find it exceedingly difficult to adopt this attitude of separateness toward many other things in my life over which I have no control, I can certainly understand how others could feel emotionally affected by knowledge of their own ApoE status.

I then had a second question: Should I make my ApoE results public? I was surprised by the number of people who recommended against doing so. The main objection seemed to be the potential that an insurance company might refuse to cover me if it were known that I was at increased risk for the development of Alzheimer's disease. I agree with one commentator who stated that this is a "worst-case scenario" and continually worrying about worst-case scenarios is not a wise way to live one's life.  I might also add that it might be in an insurance company's best interest for me to get Alzheimer's disease at a relatively earlier age (in my 60's rather than in my 80's) as  I would likely die at a younger age and thereby cost the company less money over the long run. That being said, in deference to all those who weighed in on this matter, I have elected not to publicly share my ApoE status. I appreciate all those who engaged in this discussion; and I suspect that this kind of discussion will be ongoing in many circles in the decades to come as personalized medicine, based on genomic profiling, emerges in the new age of theragnostics.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for not posting your results and maintaining your privacy. Unfortunately dementia is usually thought of as a disease that affects the elderly. Government funding for research is certainly lacking as evidenced by the advocacy bike tour of 4,000 professionals earlier this year. The DHHS zeroing funding for prion research in the 2012 proposed Presidential budget simply underscores that this is not a research priority for the U.S. Making sure you stay a healthy contributor to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid is their concern, whether you ever get to draw back on your benefits is another story. There is one scenario more scary than the privatized health insurance industry...it is information in the hands of U.S. public health.

Anonymous said...

dr. colvin wishes to know your results.