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Calibrating cancer risk, uncertainty and environments: Genetics and their contexts in southern Brazil

Authors
  • Gibbon, Sahra1
  • 1 University College London, Anthropology Department, London, WC1H 0BW, UK , London (United Kingdom)
Type
Published Article
Journal
BioSocieties
Publisher
Palgrave Macmillan UK
Publication Date
Sep 28, 2018
Volume
13
Issue
4
Pages
761–779
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1057/s41292-017-0095-7
Source
Springer Nature
License
Yellow

Abstract

Drawing on empirical ethnographic research in Brazil this paper examines how in the spaces between identifying genetic markers and conditional cancer risk, environments and diverse epigenetic logics are emerging and being negotiated among research and clinical communities, patients and their families. Focusing on an arena of research and medical intervention related to a gene variant known as R337h, thought to occur with high frequency in the south of Brazil and linked to the cancer syndrome Li–Fraumeni, it emphasises the relevance of examining epigenetics as an emic category but also its utility as an analytic category. It shows how, in a context of not yet fully knowing how and in what ways R337h contributes to increased cancer, a range of different ‘environments’ are invoked that unevenly articulate an emerging and still inchoate and unfolding terrain of understanding. In an arena of expanding genomic research and medicine, where the identification of low-risk mutations associated with cancer is increasingly common, the Brazilian case provides a particular lens on the way environments and genes are being meaningfully calibrated and how differently implicated communities resourcefully populate the gaps in knowledge and understanding with consequences for research, care and embodied risk.

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