By April Lynch and Vickie Venne
Published by Sunrise River Press
ISBN-10: 0962481475, ISBN-13: 978-0962481475
Genetics is creating more confusion than the offside rule in pub conversation. Most of us had limited teaching on the subject at school or we may have left before Watson and Crick ran out of the pub that night with the structure of DNA on a beer mat. We are left to soak in the media murkiness and skewed views of individuals, which could one day influence important decisions on our health.
The hyped claims on the front of the 'The Genome Book', a US publication, to solve all our genetic worries had me grinning and bemused when I sat down and ventured beyond the cover - Equipped with a strong coffee and a squashy sofa, I began to read - How wrong I was.
Author April Lynch is an experienced writer in the field of genetics. She begins with a concise background into the basics of DNA, breaking down the jargon barriers. Subsequent chapters handle information specific to issues the reader may face: pregnancy, nutrition, cancer, the heart and mental health. The reader learns how to construct a family tree of genetic diseases, which may highlight potential health risks, and details how lifestyle changes could curb genetic predisposition. Lynch discusses the pros and cons of testing procedures currently available, and I appreciated the caution aired on several occasions regarding the growing number of poorly regulated companies offering direct-to-consumer testing.
The closing two chapters deal with legal matters concerning the privacy of genetic information and what the field of genetics could bring in the future. Will genetic information be available to insurers or employers? Lynch is sympathetic to the frequently polarised views in genetic debates; whilst the facts are spoon-fed, the author lets the 'answers to the questions rest with you'.
The book is an easy read with bullet points to highlight key facts and floating grey boxes which dish out quirky 'did you knows' or mop up common misconceptions. Anecdotes and real-life cases are presented by genetic counsellor Vickie Venne, a past president of the US based National Society of Genetic Counsellors. Her many years of clinical experience reveal the impact that people's genomic choices have had on their lives and stimulate an emotional reflection on each chapter's genetic concepts. Each chapter closes with frequently asked questions that one might ask a healthcare professional. Unfortunately the book is let-down by the front cover, the claims to: 'Turn your genes into tools for improved wellness and longevity' are akin to a tacky magazine advertisement and a turn off for a well-informed book.
A major problem the book faces is the rate at which the field is changing. To combat this, a website has been set up to update and amend the information as it runs off the press. Nevertheless I would not invest in the book in a year or two, as so much is changing.
For the time being, this is an empowering read for the non-medical consumer who finds themselves confused by the array of genetic snippets in the media. Students in healthcare would also be well-placed to review the challenges and choices faced by modern patients and brush up on their 'ready explanations' on genetic issues.