Is there no end to Chris Hemsworth’s talents?
As politically incorrect as it may be, his screen idol appearance has fans queuing at the box office before it opens. And then there’s his acting talent, which has brought half of Hollywood to Australia. Its appeal has also helped sell tourism campaigns across the country.
And now he’s the reason for the latest water bubble chatter about whether you should know your chance of developing specific diseases.
For Hemsworth, it’s Alzheimer’s disease, after he found out – while participating in Disney+ documentary series Boundless – he has two copies of the APOE-e4 gene, inherited from both his parents.
That doesn’t mean the 39-year-old Hollywood actor will get Alzheimer’s, but having one copy makes you two to three times more likely to get the disease. Two genes increase that risk; maybe even eight to twelve times.
Of course, some people develop Alzheimer’s without any of those genes, and other factors — genetic and environmental — also play a role, according to medicos. The Hemsworth test is also not a diagnosis; just a big red flag.
And that’s the tricky part. Do you want to know that your risk of developing a certain disease is much higher than that of the general population? And would it change the way you act tomorrow?
Here, I admit to being a hypocrite. Many women are already being tested for the BRCA gene, and if they are positive, they are choosing to have their breasts and ovaries removed because of the increased risk of developing cancer.
I call that wise, and applaud friends who made that bold decision on the basis that it has a real chance of extending their lives.
But that’s the deciding factor, right? It will probably save their lives. In this case, knowledge can bring healing.
Do I really want to know if I have an increased genetic risk of developing a terrible disease, where surgery is not available to surgically remove the risk?
That’s the tough question.
Wine and cheese has already been largely removed from my home due to my husband’s cardiac arrest.
But would we have consumed less over the years if we knew about the increased risk?
And where does the risk begin? How many pieces of cheese? How many drinks?
Sun exposure causes cancer. We know that and wear sunscreen to combat that risk.
We don’t start smoking, or make it our New Year’s resolutions every year, because we know the life-threatening warnings that wrap a pack of cigarettes as a gift.
We know that obesity carries risks. Tanning beds are banned due to causal links to cancer.
And it’s not just cancer. All our lives we follow rules and regulations to make sure we are safe.
Swimming between the flags. Do not drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Don’t drive too fast. Crossing the lights at an intersection. We worry, prior to a skydive, that our parachute will get stuck. Some of us worry every time we get on a plane.
But they are factors we can do something about. Don’t fly. Do not drink. Do not smoke. Stay active. Reduce alcohol consumption.
A genetic test is different, and especially one where knowledge can increase anxiety, not necessarily reduce risk.
I wonder if Chris Hemsworth would have taken this test if it wasn’t part of a documentary?
But he did. And the decision he made is just as fantastic as any movie he’s in. He takes time off from acting, to be with his partner Elsa Pataky and their three children in Byron Bay, and to focus on his healthy lifestyle, including sleep, stress management, nutrition and exercise.
We couldn’t afford all of that either.
So would I do a genetic test for something like Alzheimer’s?
I’m not sure I’m as brave as Thor.