Prime Time Living - Page 26 - Genetics from page 14

Prime Time Living
- Page 26
Genetics from page 14
Benefits

We already do some screening when we provide our doctors with a family history. We also have regular tests for conditions that run in our family to which we may be susceptible. Genetic testing goes further. “Results,” says the GHR, “help people make informed decisions about managing their health care. For example, a negative result can eliminate the need for unnecessary checkups and screening tests in some cases. A positive result can direct a person toward available prevention, monitoring and treatment options.” A family history of diabetes, for example, can provide impetus for eating better, exercising, and maintaining a healthy weight.

For those who are planning to have children, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (www. acog.org) has detailed information on the tests and screenings related to pregnancy. “There are two general types of prenatal tests for genetic disorders: prenatal screening tests and prenatal diagnostic tests. Genetic disorders are caused by changes in a person’s genes or chromosomes. Inherited disorders are caused by changes in genes called mutations. Inherited disorders include sickle cell disease, cystic fibrosis, Tay-Sachs disease, and many others. In most cases, both parents must carry the same gene to have an affected child,” according to the organization.

Risks

“Taking a genetic test, waiting for the results and then receiving them may cause a range of mixed emotions such as relief, fear, anxiety or guilt,” says Genetic Alliance. “It is important to think through the possible consequences for you and your family if you were to receive either good news or bad news.”

Even though a genetic test may confirm a diagnosis, there may be no intervention or treatment available. You should also be aware that once you have a test done, you can’t go back and pretend it doesn’t exist.

Why Be Tested?

EuroGenTest lists a few of the reasons to be tested.

•Your doctor thinks you may have a genetic condition and wants to confirm the diagnosis.

•There is a genetic condition that happens in your family. You want to know if you are at high risk of developing the condition during your lifetime.

•You or your partner have a genetic condition that might be passed on to your children.

•Particular types of cancer have occurred in several close relatives.

Caveat Emptor (Let the Buyer Beware)

If you decide you want to have a test with a commercial laboratory, carefully read the privacy policy. One company, for instance, retains ownership of your DNA forever. Given how much privacy we’ve already ceded to various websites, this may not be a problem. However, a recent news item highlights what can happen if the buyer isn’t careful. The headline from a July 9 article by Bloomberg reads “DNATesting Service Exposed Thousands of Customer Records Online. Vitagene left client information accessible on public servers. Data online included emails, DOBs, potential health issues.”

It then continues: “Advocates say consumers may not understand the data privacy policies of at-home genealogy services. For example, 23andMe Inc. shares information from its clients with one of its investors, drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline Plc, to help develop new treatments and select patients for clinical trials. Law enforcement agencies have begun tapping DNA companies’ large databases to track down criminals, leading to last year’s capture of the Golden State Killer decades after the crimes. Companies also share DNA data to make a profit.”

Should you choose to have your genetics tested, know what you’re walking into. There is a lot more to consider, so use the suggested organizations as a starting point for a more complete understanding of all the ramifications. If it’s about your ancestry, select a company that provides a scientific basis for its tests. For healthrelated tests, work with your doctor, but also confer with a geneticist who can better prepare you. Whatever you end up doing, be an informed consumer when you make your choice. •