Is Genetic Testing For You?
By Pamela D. Wilson, CSA, MS, BS/BA, CG
Would you really want to know if you could? Genetic testing is sort of like tossing the dice, winning or losing. If you had a genetic predisposition to Alzheimer’s Disease, heart disease or cancer how would knowing this affect your life? Would it make you worry on a daily basis, hastening your end of life by adding stress to your previously relaxed and blissful life? Would knowing allow you to make a long term plan for your future and the future of your family? Is there a benefit to knowing and if yes, what might this be?
Consumer genetic testing companies are popping up all over the place. Most use saliva samples for analysis and either mail or email you information after the analysis is completed. Some have genetic counselors available by phone for consultations to explain the details of the test. For some families who have children born with birth defects or significant health issues, exploration may be beneficial, especially if a couple is considering having more children and want to know the risk factors involved. Beyond the obvious, other benefits exist.
Some companies use genetic testing to support family genealogy searches, allowing individuals to trace their roots back hundreds or even thousands of years by providing ancestry information identifying participants within geographic or ethnic groupings. Members can contact each other to compare information.
This type of investigation can quickly turn into an addictive hobby with individuals spending hours of time searching for family contacts. For older adults unconcerned about new health diagnosis, genetic testing may open up a new hobby for investigation with the results helping children and grandchildren trace their ancestry.
What’s unknown is whether a genetic test can complicate buying health insurance if the information becomes public records. The general tests can be pricy, anywhere from $500-1000 and just because a pre-disposition may be identified there is truly no way of knowing whether it will become a reality. There are obviously more expensive and in depth testing methods available like the test Angelina Jolie completed to learn of her genetic predispositions. Companies offering such tests include Navigenics and 23andMe if you’re one of the brave souls who really wants to know. For information on advanced testing, contact your physician.
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