With the upsurge in genetic testing and the finding of so-called markers for various diseases, many people have tried to be pro-active and have done expensive testing and even surgery to try and avoid their genetic fate.
This has included some women even having a mastectomy to prevent a future breast cancer because of their genetic marker for the disease.
But a new study has found that the research done on the association between the genes and other biomarkers and getting different diseases is vastly overstated.
What you and your doctor thought you knew is not true – that you are pretty much doomed to eventually get a certain disease so you need to be vigilant and have regular expensive testing to try and catch it early and minimize the problem.
The research from John loannidis, MD, DSc who is an expert in scientific study design at Stanford University School of Medicine, has shown clinicians and doctors may be making decisions for their patients based on inaccurate conclusions that are supported by only one or several smaller studies but NOT by other larger studies.
As an example, one cited study that is popular has linked the BRCA1 gene mutation with an increased risk of colon cancer. Another study links the levels of C-reactive protein in your blood with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. And yet another says there is an association between homocysteine levels in your blood with vascular disease.
The trouble is that these conclusions turned out to be gross exaggerations of their study results according to Dr. Loannidis.
He said in a statement to the press these mistakes in their studies are "…the result of statistical vagaries coupled with human nature and the competitive nature of scientific publication."
He has published his findings in a research paper in the June 1 issued of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).
Dr Loannidis said:
"No research finding has no uncertainty, there are always fluctuations. This is not fraud or poor study design, it’s just statistical expectation. Some results will be stronger, some will be weaker. But scientific journals and researchers like to publish big associations."
The problem starts when these popular "big associations" are published by the medical journals which gives the finding a lot of publicity. They the research papers are cited over and over in the medical community and little to no critiques are done on the findings. Very soon, these findings are viewed as proof of the biomarker linking to the disease.
All this results in the patient and the doctor doing a lot of unnecessary testing and treatment and causing the patient a lot of undue anxiety, stress and fear of what will happen in the future.
The study by Dr. Loannidis and his colleague Orestis Panagiontou, MD, from the University of Loannina School of Medicien in Greece, looked at 35 widely cited studies, These studies analyzed the supposed relationships between genetic biomarkers, levels of blood proteins and other markers and the likelihood of developing conditions such and heart disease or cancer.
Their analysis found that less than half of the biomarkers in these studies had statistically significant associations with the disease risk in the larger follow-up studies. Additionally, only one in five of the original studies showed an increased patient risk for a specific condition by more than 1.37. A relative risk of "1" means that there is NO difference in risk between the study group and the control group. So the 0.37 increase is minimal and not much of a worry for the person.
Dr. Loannidis also said another problem is that researchers can also include their own bias in their studies:
"Researchers tend to play with their data sets, and to analyze them in creative ways. We’re certainly not pointing out any one investigator with this study, it’s just the societal norm of science to operate in that fashion. But we need to follow the scientific method through to the end and demand replication and verification of results before accepting them as fact."
So, bottom line, unless and until the research linking a biomarker to a pre-disposition to a disease is duplicated by others and in much larger studies, the stated findings are informational and something to consider. But they should likely not be used as a reason to do testing, procedures or anything else because you think that you will be getting this disease at some point in the future.
As always, your best defense against any illness is to have a healthy lifestyle, eat healthy whole natural foods (not GMO’s or factory farms foods), supplement your vitamins and minerals, and use herbal products to support your body and your immune system.
Having a healthy and active immune system is the best thing you can do for yourself to avoid getting any diseases and it is true that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.