Updated 12.46pm with Hansford response
What’s the difference between a person’s genetic make-up and the cosmetics industry?
That might be a nonsensical question, but it was one that a medical expert found himself having to answer during an episode of TVM News health show Djanjosi this week.
A clip of the moment featuring the show's presenter Brian Hansford went viral on Friday, a week after the episode first aired, spreading like wildfire across local social media feeds.
In it, clinical haematologist David James Camilleri explains how some people are born with a predisposition to developing leukaemia, a form of cancer that develops in white blood cells.
“Some syndromes are related to a person’s chromosomes, to their chromosomal make-up,” the doctor explains. Camilleri then spends a further minute elaborating on that point, citing examples of such conditions.
But it was the doctor’s initial statement that caught Hansford’s attention.
“Let’s rewind a bit," the presenter tells his guest.
"You mentioned make-up. So if a person with certain conditions wears certain types of make-up, are they more exposed?”
The question appeared to dumbfound the doctor for a moment.
The show’s co-presenter, pathology professor Chris Barbara, squints, his lips pursed.
“It’s a chromosomal make-up...." a perplexed Camilleri replied. "It’s about how their chromosomes are set up.”
Barbara then intervened and changed the topic.
Hansford later acknowledged the mistake, saying he hadn't heard Camilleri say the word 'chromosomal'.
"The program was about leukaemia, and when I was researching it beforehand, I found out that the FDA [the US Food and Drug Administration] was investigating a potential link between parabens – preservatives used in cosmetics – and breast cancer,” Hansford told Lovin Malta.
“I was going to use it as a question in the programme anyway – there’s a lot of controversy about make-up internationally and I thought it was interesting seeing as cosmetics are so popular in Malta.”
The interaction prompted many to draw unfavourable comparisons with BBC show Cunk on Earth, which follows reporter Philomena Cunk as she interviews experts, asking them odd or ridiculous questions.
Chromosomes are threadlike structures made of protein that carry long strands of DNA, the material that holds our genes. Their configuration, or make-up, determines many of our characteristics. For instance, a person with two X chromosomes is a female, while males have one X and one Y chromosome.
Cosmetic make-up, on the other hand, is a $170 billion industry dominated by a handful of multinational corporations selling anything from mascara to eyeliner, lipstick and haircare products.
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