Can You Identify Health Deficiencies Through DNA Testing?
Everyone has heard about how they can learn about their ancestry and identify traits about themselves through a DNA test, but many consumers have a more serious question. Can they identify health risks through DNA testing? This is a serious topic and deserves a serious answer, so let’s take a closer look.
What Can DNA Testing Identify?
DNA testing takes a look at the instructions your body uses for all of your functions. By taking a look at this, geneticists can look for risk factors in your DNA, and though this may sound like science fiction, it is one of the most promising medical developments for preventive medicine. Genetic testing can allow you to detect health risks early and take proactive steps to treat and reduce your risk of severe conditions. This may not identify specific diseases but risk factors that could lead you to receive more specific and targeted medical testing in many cases.
This may help identify risk factors for diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer’s, and many other conditions or health issues such as obesity. This can be a life-saving experience for individuals at high risk of certain conditions, and it helps medical providers to focus their treatment efforts where they are needed most. If a patient is at an increased risk of breast cancer, a doctor may choose to perform mammograms, and if a patient has risk factors for obesity, they may decide to make recommendations for diet and exercise. In both of these cases, it may catch issues before they become a more severe problem.
One important thing to note is that genetic testing like Genomelink takes on an even more central and life-saving face for newborns. Every state requires newborns to undergo these tests to pick out severe medical conditions early to treat them and help ensure the child can lead a healthy and fulfilling life. Some parents can take this further and perform prenatal tests that allow potentially life-saving treatments to be completed before the baby is even born.
How Useful Is This Testing?
In many cases, this testing is instrumental and potentially life-saving. Accurately performed, DNA testing can even uncover diseases as well as the risk factors for them. This can save the lives of patients and help lead to close family members receiving tests themselves. Quick preventative treatments can save patients’ lives and help reduce the need for more invasive treatments down the line. Here are only a few of the most important examples of how DNA testing can help.
- Cancer Risk: Cancer is caused by the mutation of DNA, and in many cases, certain genes are known to increase the risk of specific types of cancer. For those with a family history of certain types of cancer, genetic testing can be essential. Many may recognize BRCA mutations that are well known to increase the risk of breast and ovarian cancer.
- Hemochromatosis: This is a condition caused by genetics in which excessive iron is absorbed into the body from the diet. This excess iron can lead to significant damage to organs such as the heart and liver. However, with prompt diagnosis, treatments such as phlebotomy and avoiding sources of excess iron can prevent harm.
- Prenatal tests: For people who are either planning for pregnancy or already pregnant, genetic testing can check for conditions such as Down syndrome and cystic fibrosis.
These examples are enough in many cases to warrant for people to start considering DNA testing. Still, this could take on some more urgency for those who are unaware of their family’s medical history. For example, in cases such as adoption, individuals may not know if they are at a higher risk of preventable diseases, such as heart disease. In these cases, health DNA testing kits can help inform decisions and save lives.
Are There Any Risks?
For collection, these tests are typically painless and may be nothing more than a cheek swab. Clearly, this poses no risk, and the valuable information you can receive outweighs any inconvenience. However, it is also essential to keep in mind that in most cases, what these tests will reveal are only risk factors, not definitive causes. This means that though you can learn that you are at a greater risk for a disease, this does not mean that you will contract it. This should be kept in mind, and for some individuals, it may be more alarming than helpful to know. In these cases, you may choose to avoid specific tests.
FDA Approved DNA Test For Genetic Health Risks
Showing just how valuable these tests can be, the FDA has approved a health DNA testing kit from 23andMe to check a DNA variation linked to 10 serious health deficiencies. This test does not check for a predisposition to cancer and instead focuses on ten specific and severe deficiencies specifically:
- Late-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease
- Parkinson’s disease
- Celiac disease: This causes an inability to consume and digest gluten.
- Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency: This is a condition that can raise the risk of lung and liver disease.
- Gaucher Disease Type 1: This is an organ and tissue disorder.
- Factor XI Deficiency: This is a blood clotting disorder.
- Glucose-6-Phosphate Dehydrogenase Deficiency: This is more commonly known as G6PD and is a serious red blood cell condition.
- Early-Onset Primary Dystonia: This is a disorder that can cause involuntary muscle contractions and other difficulties affecting movement.
- Hereditary Hemochromatosis: This disorder causes the body to absorb more iron from food than necessary.
- Hereditary Thrombophilia: This is a disorder that can cause blood coagulation in the veins.
After receiving this test which can give you valuable information concerning these ten severe conditions, it is possible to download your raw DNA data to have more testing done. This can help you test for any additional concerns you may have, such as risk factors for obesity, cancers, or heart disease. These tests are growing more accurate and expansive, and scientists are finding that we are still only scratching the surface of what DNA testing can provide.