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Why Should I Get A DNA TEST? Reason 5: IT CAN SCREEN FOR GENETIC DISEASE RISK

SCREENING FOR GENETIC DISEASE RISK IS ONE OF THE BIGGEST REASONS TO GET TESTED TODAY.

One of the most significant benefits of taking a DNA analysis test is the opportunity to screen for genetic disease risk factors for developing preventable diseases. These tests will analyze your DNA to find mutations in specific genes known to cause disease or illness. 

When take a genetic test, it can be difficult to understand exactly what the results mean. Just because you receive a positive result on a test does not mean that you will develop the disease.

Similarly, a negative result does not mean you won’t develop a particular disease in the future. Instead, this test is a preventative tool to help make necessary lifestyle changes to live a better and more healthy life. 

Additionally, early detection is almost always more successful and less costly than treatment. Testing your genes for early warning signs can help you be vigilant about your everyday health and improve your chances of living a disease-free life. 

Breast and Ovarian Cancer

A close up of women running with pink cancer bands tied around there legs.
Screening for breast and ovarian cancer helps assess your risk whether they run in the family or not.

One of the most surprising facts about breast cancer is that most diagnoses occur without any known family history of the devastating disease. However, 5 to 10 percent of the over 200,000 diagnoses each year are due to any of the three gene mutations that can take place in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes.

Typically, the BRCA family of genes is responsible for suppressing tumors within the body, according to the National Cancer Institute. When these tumor suppressors undergo a mutation, women become around five times more likely to develop breast cancer than those with no mutations. These same mutations increase the likelihood of developing ovarian cancer by 15 to 40 times

According to recent statistics, these mutations are more common in women of Ashkenazi Jewish Heritage. A DNA test will be able to inform you of your genetic risk based on your mutations. 

Bipolar Disorder

In recent years, more and more studies are linking bipolar disorder (also called manic-depressive disorder) to genetics, as it appears to run in the family. Bipolar disorder is a classified mental illness in which one experiences intense mood swings, often ranging from euphoria (mania) and despair (depression). This illness afflicts over 5.7 million Americans over the age of 18. 

Over the years, it has become evident that there is a strong hereditary component to the disease. Researchers believe that around 93% of all bipolar cases are triggered by genetics.

A DNA test will look for a specific protein marker that is created by the ANK3 gene. This gene is involved in proper nerve function and cell structure. 

According to the Center for Genetics Education in Australia, the average person only has a 2-3% chance of developing bipolar disorder. Unfortunately, the risk tends to increase with the number of family members who are also affected.

For example, individuals have about a 70% chance if their identical twin has the disorder, a 50% chance if both parents are affected, a 20% chance if one parent and one sibling have it, and a 13% chance if just one sibling possesses it. 

According to the same researchers, those with a mutation at chromosome 4 of the “Fat” gene have about two times the chance of developing the disorder than those without the mutation. Researchers aren’t entirely sure why this is the case; however, a DNA test can screen you for mutations related to bipolar disorder to better understand your risk. 

Obesity

Weight scale with a blue measuring tape.
Weight loss can be tough but your genes could be the true culprit.

If you are overweight, it may feel like you just can’t seem to shed those pounds, no matter what you do. Well, you are not alone. Over one-third of all Americans are classified as obese. That means that they are 100 pounds or more overweight or have a BMI of 30 or higher. 

Researchers aren’t exactly sure how many genes are involved in obesity; however, they are confident that genetics is involved in over 84% of those affected by the condition.

Individual variations of the “FTO” gene have been identified to cause around 7 pounds of weight gain in overweight people. Studies have shown that fatty tissue occurs at a higher level in those with FTO gene variants. Interestingly, the SNP from the FTO gene is almost always associated with fatty tissue rather than bone density or muscle mass.

Parkinson’s Disease

Many people who take a DNA test are interested in learning their risk for developing Parkinson’s disease. Parkinson’s is a devastating neurological disorder caused when the brain begins to lose the ability to produce dopamine. The condition is characterized by stiffness or trembling in the limbs, impaired speech, and slow movement. According to the NIH, around 50,000 Americans are diagnosed with Parkinson’s every year. 

The average lifetime risk of developing this disease is only around 1 to 2% and often affects those over 50. In recent studies, researchers have linked Parkinson’s to a gene named “LRRK2”, which increases the risk of developing the disease.

The biggest issue with this discovery is there are over 50 LRRK2 variations. One specific variation, the G2019S mutation, increased the risk considerably. A person who inherits this mutation from any parent has a 28% of developing Parkinson’s by the age of 59. By 79, they are up to a 74% chance. 

Understanding the genetic risk for Parkinson’s is one of the most significant steps to finding a treatment for those affected.

Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD)

A man holds glasses up to an out of focus background. He is demonstrating vison loss.
AMD is the most common cause of vision loss among Americans.

Also known as “AMD,” Age-Related macular degeneration is the most common cause of vision loss for Americans over 60. AMD causes the retina, which is responsible for relaying images to the brain, to deteriorate. In return, normal everyday functions such as driving or reading become difficult, if not impossible. 

AMD is caused by several environmental and genetic factors. Around 71% of AMD cases are caused by heredity. A DNA test will zero-in on a group of genes known as ABCR genes. It will look for certain varieties of the gene responsible for a 30% increase in vision loss. 

Moreover, AMD tends to run in the immediate family. Siblings are six times more likely to develop the condition if another sibling has the disease. A DNA test can screen for ACBR gene variations and determine how likely you are to develop vision loss before it catches you by surprise. 

Psoriasis

A woman rubs hand cream on her hands.
Psoriasis is an itchy condition caused by the HLA-C gene variant.

Psoriasis is an autoimmune condition that currently afflicts more than 7.5 million Americans. 

Psoriasis causes red, itchy patches of skin that can appear on any part of the body. Research has shown that psoriasis is 80% attributed to our genetics. The rashes are caused when our body’s immune cells (T-cells) attack our own skin. 

This itchy affliction is caused by variations of the HLA-C gene; however other DNA variations might be to blame as well. One interesting finding about these genes is that many of them require some environmental factor to appear. Even if you have a psoriasis gene variation, some people find it possible to manage by avoiding environmental triggers.

A DNA test can screen for the genetic disease variants responsible for psoriasis. 

Preventing Genetic Disease

Various medical instruments are laid out on a pink table.
Find out your genetic disease risk with a single test.

DNA tests are no longer just novelty activities for discovering your heritage. In fact, they have become helpful tools for understanding our fitness levels and screening for disease risks. While a genetic test cannot tell you everything about your body, it can tell you enough to make better and more healthy choices in your everyday life.  

If you would like to read more about how Genealogy Care handles DNA tests, see this post here.

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