≡ Menu

Does fear influence health-related decisions? Angelina (Jolie) Effect p.2

The element of fear factor in the Angelina Effect.

Fear is an important instinct with which our body is equipped. Most of us have experienced the fear reaction in emergencies. It helps us act quickly when our lives are at risk. For example, in a moment of facing a head-on collision while driving, “something in us,” turns the steering wheel, avoiding an accident before we have a chance to think about it.

By contrast, when we’re making health related decisions outside of an emergency, we need to have our thinking faculties operating at their peak. Fear can be a good motivator to action, but when our decisions are fear-based, they just create more fear.

Our society uses  “crisis management” as the way of “problem solving.” Unfortunately that means that as a routine we use aggression, even self-aggression as the means of problem solving. We fight cancer, drugs, poverty, climate changes, we even fight for peace. The bitter (inconvenient) truth is that all these fights are fear motivated and represent the basic faith against ourselves where we are the first causality. “Friendly fire” kills as effectively as enemy” fire because we may actually be that “enemy.”  Our organs are part of our body-temple given to us for enjoyment, to respect, nourish, and protect. Not to cut out.

How does the Fear Factor play in the Angelina Factor?

Fear inhibits logical analysis.

Angelina reports that her choice decreased the risk of developing breast cancer from 87 percent to five percent. This statistic is derived from observing a small number of women who had BRCA 1 and 2 genes while also having family members with breast cancer. Otherwise, these women differ within their respective groups in terms of their overall health, educational and economic status and available medical resources. Each of these differences would call for different treatment strategies to be applied to each individual.

The strength of statistics lies in drawing from a large number (sample size) of people who are similar (homogenous). Therefore, it seems logical to have some reservations about these risk figures reported by Angelina. Even the highest authority in cancer research, the National Cancer Institute, cautions about making any direct generalizations from the data on BRCA (please note the addendum below this text).

Fear-based decisions to lower risk may not prevent disease.

Angelina’s decision was motivated by the prospect of lowering the risk of breast cancer in the future. Even with the anticipated dramatic decrease still leaves a five percent of risk for her. When this is applied to the greater population, the statistic may offer a variable grade of risk reduction. The cohort derived statistics when applied to an individual person are practically reduced to two, mutually exclusive possibilities; either 100 percent or zero percent, a person acquires a disease or not.

Fear influences all parts of our being, all functions of our physical body as well as our emotional, mental and spiritual dimensions. If we use these, our powerful inner resources for experiencing fear, we invite more fear-producing events. Fear and resulting stress suppress our immune system which function is to suppress any cancers otherwise present in the body. If this fails then the estimated remaining five percent risk may produce a 100 percent of undesired clinical outcome. Angelina reacted to the theoretical future risk by choosing a real current risk by going trough a major surgery and possibly experiencing unwanted consequences of that surgery.

In her statement, Angelina also mentioned the risk of ovarian cancer related to her genetic makeup, and indirectly implied that removing her ovaries may be next.

Fear limits our choices.

Fear-motivated removal of the organs may lessen the risk of cancer, yet at the same time, it may aggravate the underlying root problem, which is fear. Overwhelmed by fear, we don’t see clearly any plausible explanations leading to alternative choices.

The risk estimate which Angelina reported is based on the outdated science of genetic determinism. This reasoning defines our body as a biochemical machine programmed by its genes. It implies we are victims of the draw and cannot change our fate.

Contemporary understanding of genetics includes the science of epigenetics, which points out that the mere presence of an abnormal gene or abnormal mutation of an initially normal gene may not necessarily translate into clinical manifestation as a disease.  The activity of abnormal genes is influenced by their variability, and in fact, some variations of an abnormal gene may actually protect from disease rather than cause it. Epigenetics tells us that the most important factor in predicting genetic disease is the environment where the gene is located and operates.

What we do with our lifestyle and food choices can predict the outcome of an abnormal gene. How we handle toxins (both chemical and mental), and treat our current diseases is another predictor. There are many of these factors which can determine the course of our genes.

Comments on this entry are closed.