Calibrating cancer risk, uncertainty and environments: Genetics and their contexts in southern Brazil
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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.
I would like thank all those who agreed to participate in the outlined research. I extend my sincere gratitude and thanks to the anonymous reviewers and editors of the special issue who generously provided feedback. I also acknowledge the support of the Wellcome Trust who provided financial support for the research discussed in the article.
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