You might remember that I said one time that I had never met a DNA test that I wouldn’t take. I’m asking myself if I feel the same way about a different kind of test.
This week, an article was published titled “”Death test” that reveals if you’ll be alive in five years: Blood sample will identify those as risk from range of diseases.” I love headlines. They grab your attention, but they don’t necessarily portray things quite accurately.
First, let me say that this isn’t a DNA test. This is a medical or “biomarker” test. Second, it does NOT tell you if you’ll be dead within 5 years.
Still, the article itself is a good read. The second sentence in the article really sums up the study quite well. “It uses a sample of blood to identify those at high risk of being killed by diseases ranging from heart disease to cancer.”
That’s vastly different than telling you yes, or no, you’ll be dead within 5 years.
The underlying paper titled “Biomarker Profiling by Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy for the Prediction of All-Cause Mortality” An Observational Study of 17,345 Persons” was published last week in PLOS Medicine. You can see clearly why the article had to come up with a new title.
The paper itself says, in summary, that a combination of biomarker tests is highly predictive of people who will pass away within 5 years, or are dead at the 5 year marker, even seemingly healthy people. This includes causes of death such as heart disease and cancers which have not yet been diagnosed. These tests, when combined, are much more reliable than any of these tests individually at picking up the general fragility of the human body that may be stressed but at such a low level that we don’t know it yet.
“Individuals with a biomarker score in the top 20% had a risk of dying within five years that was 19 times greater than that of individuals with a score in the bottom 20% (288 versus 15 deaths).”
This type of testing indeed may prove to be a powerful tool, eventually. It’s not here yet, it’s not soup yet, and there is a lot more study that needs to be done. The editors also caution people not to confuse correlation with causation. In other words, these biomarkers measured are not causing the problems, they are simply measureable symptoms.
Having said this, a small group of online friends was having a discussion about this topic last evening. The question was, “If there was a death test that actually would tell you if you’re going to be dead within 5 years, would you take it?” Of course, there were the requisite jokes, but there was also serious discussion about what would change. Like, no more saving for a rainy day, I’d retire now and you can eat as many Thin Mint Girl Scout cookies as you want! What, you think that’s not serious???
So, if the 5-Year-Death-Test was a reality, would you take it? You can vote here but tell me in the comments what you think and how your life would differ if the answer was yes, or even if the answer was no. How would the knowledge conveyed by that test change your life?