Genetic health tests: What is your risk of developing a given disease?

February 21, 2013

Healthy Life

Genetic health tests

Genetic health tests

Have you ever wondered whether you are at an elevated risk of developing a type of cancer? Or perhaps, wondered whether you really had a higher chance of diabetes because this condition ran in your family? Well there are accurate and reliable DNA tests that can specifically tell you how likely it is that you will develop a given illness at any point in your life. These tests are commonly referred to as genetic health tests or genetic predisposition tests. These tests are aimed at helping you plan your future genetic help, taking strategic health and lifestyle decisions that can reduce your chances of developing the illness. Of course, no exercise regime or eating plan can change the genes you have, but certain measures can help you maintain optimal health.

It’s all in your genes

Hundreds of diseases are known to be caused by certain gene mutations which some of us carry and others do not. By analyzing your DNA and checking whether you carry these mutations on your DNA, scientists can determine the likelihood of your developing the disease. Of course this is only part of the picture. You need to get advice from a doctor, professional nutritionist or genetic counselor. They can help you understand the results and guide you where possible. Of course, many conditions like diabetes or lung cancer can possibly be kept at bay by making certain life style changes. Things are different with other diseases however as there are no changes to dietary habits and life style that could reduce the risks of developing the illness. Also to be noted that science has not yet developed a method of knowing whether someone with a high predisposition to a disease will actually develop. Hence, the results of these tests provide a percentage probability.

Genetic health testing is analysis of specific variations on your DNA known as single nucleotide polymorphisms. These polymorphisms can directly influence how a gene works and are known to responsible for the development of some diseases. In fact, very specific SNPs have been linked to certain diseases.

When you purchase your health test, you will be sent a DNA sample collection kit. This kit is specially packed with the necessary oral swabs or finger lancets you need to collect your own sample. All you need to do is follow the instructions provided carefully and collect the sample required. Once you have done this you can send the sample for analysis and wait for the results.

To regulate or not to regulate?

These types of health genetic tests are entirely unregulated in most countries. They are sold direct to consumer with different companies testing for a different number of diseases. People who champion these tests claim results to be pretty “harmless” providing insights into ones genes and genetic health. Others believe these tests to provide information that could lead to mental unrest, anxiety and panic. Should a woman who has a very high predisposition to breast cancer have a mastectomy just to avoid the illness? On the other hand, this very same person might ensure to go for regular checkups and tests and periodically check her breasts to ensure there are no lumps. There are thus, two sides to the coin. Ideally, no one should take a genetic health test unless they have sought the advice of a doctor and the take on board the guidance of a nutritionist following the results.

Some examples of how you can take better control of your health

Smoking: the correlation between smoking and lung cancer is stronger than with any other disease. Smokers already know they are at higher risk of developing the condition. This said, they often also use an optimistic bias to relieve themselves of any worries. In other words, they believe that other smokers may develop cancer but not themselves. Genetic health testing has been found to have jolted smokers out of their habit by showing them a reality. Many smokers with children and families quit smoking if the results of a health test show they are particularly susceptible to the illness.

Another illness is diabetes Type II. This disease is known to be linked to the wrong dietary habits – too much sugar, salt, saturated fats and weight gain. The gene for diabetes type II may remain inactive if there is no weight gain (of course caused by unhealthy eating).

Moreover, somebody with a gene mutation known to code for osteoporosis needs to ensure adequately high levels of calcium and vitamin D if they wish to reduce their chances of onset as much as possible.


Emily Burns is a qualified nurse in the maternity care unit of a private hospital. She currently has put work on hold and dedicated herself to being a full time mother and a writer from home. She regularly provides articles to many info sites and blogs about prenatal care and pregnancy. Articles by the writer can be found in the article repository for

Genetic health tests: What is your risk of developing a given disease?

This site is for information and support only and NOT a substitute for professional diagnosis and treatment!

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