Consumer Reports: Genetic Testing Your Health

If one or more close family members has a disease with a genetic link, testing for the gene may make sense.

In some diseases, genetic testing gives doctors the ability to detect problems early. It also helps us to potentially decrease the severity of the illness and may even help decrease the risk of developing the illness in the first place.

For instance with breast and colon cancer, or some types of heart disease there are good strategies for early detection and preventive measures like following a diet and exercise plan to lower your risk. But the same isn’t true for Alzheimer’s disease. There’s no way to prevent it even if you know that you have the gene. But also not everyone who has the gene will develop the disease and so you may just be causing yourself unnecessary worry and costs.

It’s very important to consult with your doctor to see if you are a good candidate for genetic testing and if getting the results will be helpful. In some cases the tests may be covered by insurance.

People who have a close relative who developed colon or uterine cancer before age 50 might consider a genetic test for Lynch Syndrome. About 3 to 5 percent of colon cancers stem from this inherited condition. Increased surveillance can help detect any problems early.

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