Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) testing is most often mentioned in television series that deals with crimes and legal disputes. This procedure is either used to catch a killer or to establish paternity. But, murder and family issues aside, there are tests that could help open the windows to your health status such as DNA health testing.
In 2013, Hollywood superstar Angelina Jolie shocked the world when she owned up to having undergone a preventive double mastectomy procedure. She made this difficult decision following a genetic DNA testing which revealed she is at a high risk for developing breast and cervical cancers. Her mother died of breast cancer at the age of 56.
What is DNA health testing?
Genetic testing results can give you a glimpse of your current and future health situation. It involves testing your DNA which, in simple term, refers to the database that carries instructions for your body’s functions. One of the most important functions of DNA testing is that it flags the gene mutations linked to specific health conditions and illnesses. Simply put, it may provide information in helping diagnose and prevent certain diseases.
These days, DNA and health testing kits are widely available, and there are DNA testing kits that you can perform at home. Mouth swabs, hair samples, or blood tests are any of the samples you can take to get things started. Medically, however, these home kits are less reliable than the tests performed by healthcare professionals.
Why you might need to consider getting a DNA health testing
No matter for which reasons you’re planning to get DNA health testing, always remember that you need to seek the help of a medical professional to interpret your results.
- DNA health testing may help predict your unborn child’s problems
Sometimes, a perfectly healthy individual may be a carrier of specific diseases or genetic disorders. Called a carrier test, it looks at specific DNA mutations in a person that can be passed on to his or her unborn child. This means that even when a person is asymptomatic or is not feeling any symptoms, his child can still develop certain health problems sooner or later. A carrier may not necessarily be affected by a disorder or condition because his DNA has an extra “copy” of that same gene that doesn’t have the alteration.
For instance, a mother who carries a gene mutation associated with sickle cell anemia may not be suffering from it, but has a 50% chance of passing this disease on to her offspring. If, however, both parents are carriers, their children are likely to develop the disease.
You may get carrier testing in several healthcare facilities and clinics. Some DNA health testing kits have this feature too.
2. DNA health testing may foretell diseases that can develop in the future
It’s common knowledge that an individual is likely to develop a disease if he or she has a family history of such condition. With DNA health testing, doctors can analyze specific genetic markers linked to a disease and predict whether the patient is susceptible.
While genetic testing can be done on an individual who’s been developing specific symptoms, it can also be performed early on. A pregnant mother can be tested to predict the possibility of developing a certain disease or condition in the child. The test can include the baby’s father and the baby himself or herself.
In rare cases, the doctor can predict a disorder by simply looking at one gene mutation, such as in Huntington’s disease—a disorder that results in dementia. In most cases, the hunt for potential diseases may be more complicated, with a physician having to look at multiple genes and several changes in them before coming up with a conclusion.
- DNA health testing may help confirm hereditary diseases
A DNA testing for your health allows you to know or confirm your susceptibility to developing specific diseases.
Genetic tests done medically (and not the D-I-Y home kits) can help diagnose various hereditary diseases and conditions, according to the National Institutes of Health. Huntington’s disease, cystic fibrosis, sickle cell anemia, Marfan syndrome, familial hyperlipidemia, and muscular dystrophy are few of the diseases that can be confirmed by these diagnostic tests.
Some women undergo these tests before or after giving birth. But, in most cases, doctors use DNA health testing to confirm diseases or conditions in individuals who are experiencing specific symptoms. While it may not be useful in preventing diseases, it can help in early diagnosis, allowing you and your healthcare practitioner to manage the symptoms and prevent the problem from getting worse.
4. DNA health testing may aid in predicting cancer
Cancer is one of the top causes of death worldwide. Unhealthy lifestyle and stress are two of the most common perpetrators, but genetics also play a key role.
Genetic tests can supply information about genetic inheritance of certain forms of cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute, among them sarcoma, breast cancer, colon cancer, and melanoma.
The BRCA 1/BRCA 2 gene mutations are associated with cancer. Again, let’s take Angelina Jolie’s experience. In her 2013 revelation, Jolie said she has a gene mutation BRCA 1, putting her at a high risk for developing breast and other forms of cancer in the future. She had double mastectomy to reduce the risk.
The BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 genes suppress tumors. Modifications or mutations in these genes increases a woman’s risk for developing either breast or ovarian cancer by up to 60 percent. Medical doctors advise women to undergo cancer screening at an early age to allow proper management.
5. DNA health testing may help determine whether you’re at a higher risk for developing diseases caused by various factors
Like cancer, diabetes is also one of the many diseases caused by a confluence of factors, mainly an unhealthy lifestyle. However, a DNA health testing can help identify modifications that actually cause a certain disease and therefore can predict if you’re at risk for developing it.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved some home DNA health testing kits which claimed that they can help foresee whether a person has a genetic risk for developing medical conditions such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, celiac disease, dystonia, and other blood and tissue disorders.
Still, some DNA health testing kits provide information on specific traits not related to genetic disorders or medical conditions. There are those that can help tell whether an individual is at a risk for lactose intolerance, for instance.
Unlike COVID-19 test results that are known for being highly accurate, the results of these DNA health testing kits are not 100 percent definitive. They remain predictive only. So, while it can foretell your susceptibility to certain diseases or disorders, it cannot tell in full confidence that you’ll get them.
Hence, DNA testing can be beneficial in helping you predict potential health problems, allowing you to manage your health properly. Rather than cause unnecessary worry, these tests can, in fact, encourage you to maintain a healthy lifestyle or consider undergoing preventive medical procedures.