General Health Tuesday April 3, 2012

DNA testing - Do we really need to know everything?

These days DNA testing can reveal a huge amount about our future health; this type of testing is known as genetic predisposition testing and is able to tell you if you are at an increased risk of most diseases. However, apart from the really serious genetic diseases that can affect people, do we really need to know all the diseases we are likely to get and if we did know, would it change anything?

In the field of research, genetic predisposition testing can help scientists understand how diseases work and can help them identify specific genes and gene mutations of diseases in order to help them develop more targeted treatment. Recently US scientists managed to identify a number of gene mutations through genome sequencing which will better enable them to treat these mutations with medications similar to matinib, ruxolitinib and sunitinib, which are currently being used for other types of cancers.

This is quite significant as with traditional DNA testing related to disease predisposition, most cancers can’t be identified because they are mostly the result of mutations that form later in life and not as the result of inherited genes. This, however, leads me to my main question. Do we as the general public really need to know our predisposition to diseases, if some of them are unavoidable? I completely understand the value of DNA testing such as this in a laboratory setting, as this aids the development of more targeted treatment. However, I wonder if I’ll benefit from knowing my risk of getting Alzheimer’s diseases, arthritis or heart disease?

Most commercially available tests also don’t tell you that much, meaning; they can only provide you with an indication of how much more at risk of developing a particular condition than the rest of the population. However, if your risk to develop a disease is low or not indicated, then it’s not because you’ll never get a particular disease, it just means that you are no more likely to develop something than the general population, meaning that you still have a risk. As Dr Bert Vogelstein, geneticists involved in a recent study into the value of DNA mapping for the general population said, every person is likely to have some kind of risk to develop at least one disease.

For many people DNA testing can be hugely helpful, and can help identify mystery illnesses or help parents make decisions about whether they are willing to have another child if a serious genetic disorder is a possibility. However, I doubt whether it’s useful to do a DNA test to check for general disease predisposition, if anything it would just increase paranoia and maybe even for no reason at all. Yes, it might be possible to potentially avoid or push back the start of an illness, but ideally we should be living our lives as healthily as possible, without the continuous fear that each time you forget where you put your keys, it’s the start of your downhill slope into dementia. If anything, I think it might make matters worse.

Latest Stories

Get your daily dose of inspiration from our Best of healthexpress blog , where we showcase some of the most stunning stories and information.

General Health

Cow's Milk vs. Soy Milk, Which i...

Soy milk is often presented to us as a healthy milk alternative, especially for those who have trouble digesting animal milk, but is it better for...

Weight Loss

Relatively Painless Ways To Lose...

There's no arguing that trying to lose weight is boring, tedious and takes literally forever. If only there were some easy and painless ways to...

General Health

How to deal with allergies

Allergy UK says that 30-35% of the worldwide population will suffer from an allergy at some point, and there is an upwards trend of allergy...

Sexual Health

Sex Vs No Sex: Which Is Best For...

If you ask anyone this question, they will probably say that sex is best for health and more of it please. But there are always two sides to a...

General Health

Can you run for your bus? Appare...

The health of British men and women is not glowing. 'Could Try Harder' should be scribbled our health reports because a new survey conducted by the...

Weight Loss

Occasional Consumption; Is It To...

We are in the midst of an obesity crisis of which we are uncertain of the outcome. Who knows how this epidemic will pan out in the future? Are we...

Load More Stories
comments powered by Disqus