What causes genetic defects?
Experts estimate that every person carries about 2.000 genetic defects, which may affect his health, and, in some cases, cause illnesses. A variety of factors can cause changes in our genes (also called mutations); in rare cases, this can have positive effects, but mostly interfere with the function of the genes and have a negatively impact on our health.
The most well known cause, as presented by the media and Hollywood, is radioactivity; the radioactive rays penetrate into the cells and our genetic code, thus randomly damaging our genes. In the movies, these changes or mutations often lead to the creation of monsters like Godzilla, or characters with supernatural powers, as in X-Men; in reality, they cause deadly diseases, such as cancer, or congenital abnormality for newborns.
Another cause of mutations and genetic defects are certain substances such as carbon, which can be ingested from burnt food. It penetrates the cells and damages our genes, which can lead to colon cancer, among other form of cancer. The UV sun radiation can also damage our genes, and leads to diseases such as skin cancer.
Where do we get our genetic defects?
External influences can affect individual genes and disrupt their function, but the majority of our defective genes are inherited from our parents. Each embryo receives half of its genes from the father and half of its genes from the mother, resulting in a new human being with some of the characteristics of each parent. The genetic defects are unfortunately passed together with these genes; for example, a genetic defect that causes heart attack may pass from the father to the child and further to the grandchild and so on, leading to passing the same disease to each generation. Whether the genetic defect is passed, however, is determined randomly, and it may be that some of the grandchildren carry the defective gene and others do not.
This makes each person unique, and by the accumulation and combination of different genetic defects, each person carries other health-inherited weaknesses. With the latest technology, it is now finally possible to examine one's genes and determine his personal health risks. In many cases, taking advantage of this knowledge, and following some precautionary measures, the diseases may even be prevented. This is the next step in preventive medicine and a new generation of health care.