Commercial Genetic Testing: Medical Benefits

Authors: Alessandro Mendoza and Amber Williams

Commercial genetic testing is the testing of one’s DNA in order to detect if they are at risk to developing various cancers and diseases. Some disagree with the idea to test for their hazards, although there are many medical benefits. According to Dr. Joseph Kannry, lead Technical Informaticist of the Epic Clinical Transformation Group, Mount Sinai Medical Center, and Marc Williams director of the Genomic Medicine Institute, Geisinger Health System, commercial genetic testing is useful for making decisions about medical care after testing  . These tests reveal the risk assessment related to various cancers and diseases, and allow you to begin the healing process early.

UnitedHealth Center for Health Reform and Modernization, and Harris Interactive conducted two surveys where physicians and non experts were asked how knowledgeable and familiar they are with genetic testing and consumer attitudes toward genetic testing  Overall, about 75% of consumers are in favor of genetic testing because it helps doctors start treatment for preventable conditions. About 63% of physicians say genetic testing gives them the ability to diagnose unknown conditions. 50% also say it gives them the ability to diagnose preventable conditions.

Both Dr. Kannry and Marc Williams are for this type of genetic testing and have written about it in the medical journal Genetics in Medicine. They say, “Use of genetic testing for commonly used medications such as warfarin and clopidogrel can improve initial dosing, and there is early evidence that this can reduce recurrent myocardial infarction, stent thrombosis, and death”, meaning genetic tests can help determine the amount of  medication people need. Doctors could be precise, and not generalize, they would know how well someone responds to certain medication, and whether or not they could die from it.

Commercial genetic testing is, as said before, more useful for finding the chances of developing a cancer or disease. It gives a fairly accurate percentage of your chances and most genetic testing companies use it for this purpose. More specifically, they use it to test for hereditary disorders that range from common to rare. One such company, Genedx, tests for rare disorders that could arise. What sets them apart from the other companies is that they actually readily show their credentials and explain how their tests work. Most other companies don’t show them so easily, and expect people to trust them about their tests, which is a concern for many people.

Some people fear that the advancement of genetic tests will lead to people beginning to design their own babies in the womb, something they think is unnatural or against God’s will. More importantly, they’re afraid only the rich would be able to design their babies, making the difference between those with money and those without it.While this fear is not unfounded, as some scientists in the field have said, while it will happen, it is still a long ways off from happening. Plus, the idea of designing a baby has its merits. It gives parents the chance to make sure their babies won’t get some terminal disease, something most parents would want to make sure of.

As mentioned previously, experts such as Dr. Kannry and Marc Williams are in full support of genetic testing. Heidi Feldman, M.D., Ph.D, also supports the idea of genetic testing because it is a way to provide the necessary information patients and families need regarding their health. She mentions that knowing the source of the cancer or disease is very helpful because doctors are able to pinpoint the likelihood of the patient’s condition, possibly prevent a negative outcome and tell the possibility of a repeated disease. In some cases, doctors can then reveal the risks of one’s condition and also provide information on whether or not the disease is hereditary. Although genetic testing is very beneficial towards the health of many consumers although there is a pretty price to pay.

While genetic testing is very beneficial to consumers, the cost is very pricey even for something as simple as a saliva sample. One organization, 23andMe charges $99 for their saliva samples plus cost of sending in your samples. the  Other organizations range their prices from $100 up to over $2000 depending on how complicated or severe the disease is. Prices may also increase if more than one family member needs to be tested according to the Genetics Home Reference.

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 Commercially available genetic testing continues to be a useful asset to doctors and consumers everywhere. As technology marches on, genetic testing will get more and more accurate and will be more trusted by the general public. But, it first needs to be more trusted now if we want to get it at that point. If people have enough interest in it, genetic testing will become more developed. According to , while only 14% believes that genetic testing will improve within the next five years, 56% of the physicians surveyed expect progress to continue beyond that time frame.

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5 Comments Add yours

  1. caseylapidus says:

    My mom does genetic testing on these microscopic worms which have incredibly close DNA sequences as us.

    1. amandalevin says:

      I am always amazed at how genetically close we are to all other living beings. Weird.

  2. Perry F. says:

    I’m interested in what the scientific community will do in order to get religious zealots to trust them more, or at least back down from calling genetic testing “a sin against god”. From what I read when researching my topic, they seem pretty adamant.

    1. amandalevin says:

      Sort of futile to try to change people’s belief systems – you just have to protect yourself from it if it becomes dangerous as zealotry can often do.

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