Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Pandora's DNA (book review)

Stark, Lizzie (2014). Pandora's DNA: Tracing the Breast Cancer Genes Through History, Science, and One Family Tree. Published by Chicago Review Press. ISBN 9781613748602.
From the publisher's book description: "Stark uses her family’s experience to frame a larger story about the so-called breast cancer genes, exploring the morass of legal quandaries, scientific developments, medical breakthroughs, and ethical concerns that surround the BRCA mutations, from the troubling history of prophylactic surgery and the storied origins of the boob job to the landmark lawsuit against Myriad Genetics, which held patents on the BRCA genes every human carries in their body until the Supreme Court overturned them in 2013."

Lizzie Stark is a first generation BRCA patient who has taken advantage of the ability to undertake genetic testing for the hereditary BRCA mutations that put some families at significantly greater risk than others of breast and ovarian cancer diagnosis. Pandora's DNA covers her family's medical history and her admittedly privileged personal decision-making process which nevertheless involves loss and trade-offs. It also addresses how much, and in some respects how little, has been achieved in the field of women's health, and highlights some notable individuals and events in history that have advanced technology to where it is today.