Genetic testing has become a multi-billion dollar direct-to-consumer business. There are tests available now to discover who your ancestors were, reveal your food allergies, and even uncover inherited chronic diseases.
The tests have become so popular, more people took genetic ancestry tests in 2017 than in all previous years combined. But how reliable are these direct-to-consumer tests? And what can they really tell us about our health?
This fascinating interplay between genealogical study and health – and the benefits and potential pitfalls involved – is the topic of this week’s episode of my "Newt’s World" podcast.
Three experts joined me to have a conversation looking at the business of genetic testing, the reasons why someone may want to decide to take the test, and the importance of counseling and medical oversight in the process.
While not every disease or chronic condition has a genetic link, many do. Knowing what illnesses to which you may be genetically predisposed can potentially help doctors get ahead of your condition and lessen its impact with preventative treatment. Similarly, a genetic counselor could be able to explain how to change your lifestyle to avoid the brunt of some genetic disease. Further, identifying the genetic markers that run in your family could potentially help your relatives – and future generations.
However, as genetic information becomes a commodity sought by scientists and biotech companies, significant privacy issues loom over the genetic testing industry. There is some question as to whether the industry has enough oversight by regulators to protect consumers.
I focused on this important issue, because I wanted to learn about this interesting convergence of business and medicine. I also wanted to help people understand how to approach DNA testing, how it relates to preventative care and identifying specific diseases, and what its limits are.
I hope you will listen to this week’s episode.
The breakthroughs in this field could potentially save many lives.