Open Thread, 11/24/13

By Razib Khan | November 24, 2013 4:21 am


One of the stranger call-ins on my interview with Kathleen Dunn last month was when a woman who proudly declared that she was a math major in college asserted that 23andMe had told her she wasn’t at risk for many diseases which now in her 60s she had developed. I didn’t want to be too pointed about it, but if you are in your 60s you are at risk for developing many illnesses no matter what your “genetic risk.” This is clear from 23andMe’s statistics, which display high baseline risks for many common diseases. From reading comments on 23andMe discussion forums it seems that perceived false negatives are going to be a much bigger issue than false positives over the long run. If the tests are “wrong” in a direction which leaves you in a better state than predicted you might feel like you’ve dodged a bullet. On other hand if the tests are “wrong” in a direction which gave you false comfort, or add insult to injury when you’ve developed a debilitating disease, then you feel much more burned.

I don’t really recommend blogs too much anymore. But please check out The Stage and Social Evolution Forum.

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Comments (7)

  1. This band HAIM was on SNL last night:
    It’s three young sisters from from Cali and boy, can they do it up somethin’ special! These girl are legit – every song on their album is good. Kind of an 80s feel to it. I’m gonna go WAY out on a limb here and guess that they’re Jewish:) Unfortunately, they were the only good part of the show. I’ve been diggin’ them and Kimbra lately.

    Anyway, if anyone out there isn’t on Twitter I can fully recommend it. Man, they got some juicy links on there if you follow the right people. *And* it’s another excuse to bother Razib about stuff!
    Walled world:

  2. Anthony_A

    Since lots of people think in anecdotes, it’s probably easier to reach them through properly constructed anecdotal arguments. For the particular case, pointing out that even non-smokers sometimes get lung cancer, or that even well-maintained cars eventually have major breakdowns, would get her thinking in the right direction.


    “Calgary police have now charged a woman in the death of her 7-year-old
    son, who they allege died after she tried to treat his strep infection
    with holistic remedies.”

  4. TheBrett

    That sounds about right. If I remember right, once you’re past 60 years old, you’re at a high risk of stuff like cancer whether or not you have a genetic predisposition for it.

    Side-thought, but that sounds like it would be a limit on living forever if we ever discovered some type of “immortality treatment” without developing some way to decisively defeat cancer in its hundreds of forms. Eventually the genetic damage over time would give you cancer in one form or another.

  5. Razib-

    Thanks for the link.


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About Razib Khan

I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. In relation to nationality I'm a American Northwesterner, in politics I'm a reactionary, and as for religion I have none (I'm an atheist). If you want to know more, see the links at


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