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Northside Planning Council - NPC

Letters to the Editor

Royster Ross 1

Letter to the editor:

I receive the Northside News and find it an informative and useful publication. However, I have several concerns about the most recent health column by Dr. Ross Royster: (1) Royster is a doctor of chiropractic—this should be clearly stated, as many people will assume he is a physician (M.D. or D.O.). (2) His statement that only 5–10% of illnesses have a genetic origin is false—most common serious illnesses (cardiovascular disease, cancer, major mental illness) have a complex causality that includes genetic predispositions, environment and lifestyle factors.

This column seems to be blaming victims for their illnesses, which is not helpful. The column also equates prescription medications with “drugs” and advocates for “natural medicines.” This may encourage people with serious illnesses to go off of effective medications and substitute untested supplements with no proven benefits.


Michael Sweet, Ph.D.,
Retired Licensed Psychologist;
Clinical Preceptor, UW-Madison


Dear Dr. Sweet:

Thank you for your thoughtful letter. You are right. I should have been more accurate by saying that “about 5–10% of disease or poor health is strictly the result of genes.” You are correct in saying most common serious illnesses have a complex causality that includes genetic predispositions, environment and lifestyle factors. My intention was to put emphasis on the lifestyle factors that we can, for the most part, control. The World Health Organization (WHO), in its report “Genes and Human Disease” states, “The primary determinants of most cancers are lifestyle factors, such as tobacco, dietary and exercise habits, environment carcinogens and infectious agents, rather than inherited genetic factors.” The WHO further states, “the proportion of cancers caused by high penetrance genes is low, about less than 5 percent of breast cancer and less for most other cancers.” You are correct in recognizing that there are genetic predispositions to serious disease, but the WHO states that, “Lifestyle modifications can either exacerbate a predisposition to disease or lessen the potential for disease.”

I never intend to blame people for their illnesses. My goal is to empower them with the knowledge that they have the ability to affect their health in most cases. I don’t think a victim mentality is good for the patient or the doctor.

Also, I would never encourage a patient to go off any medication for a serious illness. That’s the realm of the MD. When I suspect that side effects of mediation may be causing the patient’s symptoms, I refer them to their MD.

I do counsel patients regularly on nutrition and exercise and, at times, supplements. Yes, it’s true that most supplements have not been thoroughly tested scientifically; there is little money to be made from supplements compared to pharmaceuticals, so there is little money to be spent on research. However, there has been, throughout human history, knowledge of the beneficial properties of some foods and spices, and they rarely have side effects.


Ross Royster, DC

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