Genetics testing has become a recent innovation in figuring out one’s probability of becoming ill and also helps people figure out their roots, where their ancestors were from. Anne Wojciciki, the founder and CEO of 23 and Me Inc. has developed a way for regular people to order a personal genetic testing kit where they can spit and within a short time learn what they could be susceptible for and where they originate. While this may be fun to see where one comes from in terms of race and geographic area, it may not be as exciting when it comes to health outcomes. If someone is, for example, a carrier of the BRCA1 gene, a mutation that dramatically increases the risk of breast cancer, this fun experience could quickly become one of terror and fear.
Some people do not want to know what they may die of and genetics testing not only gives one exactly what they might die of, but also the chances. Still, it is not a certainty that the person carrying whatever gene could contract the disease. Even though genetics testing could be a scary experience, it is better to know than not know. This because when one knows, prevention then takes the forefront.
Angelina Jolie discovered she had the BRCA1 gene in 2012. After she discovered it thanks to genetics testing, she opted for a double mastectomy. “The procedure is only recommended for patients with a very high risk of breast cancer. A mutation of the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes give women between a 45 and 90 per cent chance of developing breast cancer” (Cooper, 2014). Some people may think it extreme that someone would do something like this. However, in reality she was just doing what enabled the best possible outcome, no breast cancer. With her mom having died of breast cancer and her aunt dying just two weeks after Jolie got the mastectomy, preventative efforts in Jolie’s case could very have saved her life.
The founder of 23 and Me, Wojcicki, found out after her significant other got tested, that he could develop Parkinson’s in the future. While Parkinson’s is not as deadly as cancer, it severely affects the person and the ones they love. It is great that she not only supports her significant other by taking preventative measures to reduce the risk of Parkinson’s, but also acknowledges that knowing this ahead of time could possibly help a person prevent the disease or the progression of the disease altogether.
Still, some may argue for example against testing because an unpreventable disease like early onset Alzheimer’s could ruin a person’s life if he or she discovers their likelihood to develop it early through genetic testing. There is a risk gene “with the strongest influence is called apolipoprotein E-e4 (APOE-e4). Scientists estimate that APOE-e4 may be a factor in 20 to 25% of Alzheimer’s cases” (Alz.org, 2016). In these cases, people have very little ways of preventing the progression of the disease or the disease itself and could be an extremely depressing and disheartening discovery.
However, the good far outweighs the bad. People should get genetic testing done to discover what can be done now. Preventative measures not only save people money, but also can help save lives. Procedures like Jolie’s double mastectomy decrease one’s likelihood of develop breast cancer by 90%. These measures are much more inexpensive than chemotherapy and radiation and less damaging to the person’s body.
In conclusion, yes there are some fears and apprehensions to genetic testing. People do not want to know how or when they will die. However, the majority of the time, genetic testing provides information that can lead to prevention and most importantly, a healthy and long life. In the end, that is what everyone truly wants.
Alz.org,. (2016). Alzheimer’s & Dementia Risk Factors — Alzheimer’s Association. Retrieved 20 February 2016, from http://www.alz.org/alzheimers_disease_causes_risk_factors.asp
Cooper, C. (2014). Jolie effect: her revelation doubled NHS breast cancer testing.The Independent. Retrieved 20 February 2016, from http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/health-news/the-angelina-jolie-effect-her-mastectomy-revelation-doubled-nhs-breast-cancer-testing-referrals-9742074.html
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