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Alex Van Dijk

Biology Teacher,

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Would you get your genome tested to ascertain whether you have an increased risk of genetic disease?

In recent times it has become possible to get your genome screened at a reasonable cost (I am thinking of companies like 23andme etc) for a variety of known mutations that contribute to a variety of genetic ailments.

Would you want to know?
What are the advantages of screening for the individual and their family? How about disadvantages?
If people start doing DIY screening, would this have an effect on national healthcare provision? Would we need more genetic counsellors etc.?

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    Jul 7 2011: Ignorance is bliss..
    • Jul 7 2011: But if you knew you were genetically predisposed to say prostate cancer, you might get yourself checked out sooner and more often, thus increasing the chance of early detection and successful treatment. But then as you say, you might worry needlessy if you had a slightly higher than average chance.

      It is all probabilties I guess.
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        Jul 7 2011: Some people might. In all honesty, I wouldn't.

        Enjoy it while you're here,
        We're only gears with fears.
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    Jul 6 2011: i would, im 21 and feel fine. BUT if i did have something, now would be a good time to find out. (like before i decide if i want a kid)
    • Jul 7 2011: I feel similar (a bit older, and probably nearer to having kids). There's also a history of early onset cancers and heart disease in my family, so that might make it more releveant to me.
  • Jul 6 2011: I'll answer first.

    I am unsure as to whether or not I want the knowledge. It is potentially a heavy load, and might cause considerable amounts of distress. That said, if I knew I was predisposed to something like Type 2 diabetes or prostate cancer, I could make sure that I get myself checked out more often, maybe modify my diet and lifestyle before anything happens.

    If both you and your parner were checked before considering conception you could use preconception screening to avoid passing on genetic diseases such as cystic fibrosis or sickle cell anaemia.

    On a national level I could see more people going to doctors' surgeries without having anything wrong with them, yet. A number of healthcare systems (including the British which I am most familiar with) are reactive rather than proactive. Preventitive procdeures are not as widespread as they should be. Would doctors be able to interpret the data and provide advice? Would they need more training?

    On a positive side, if people knew earlierthat they were predisposed to a particular ailment, they might be able to avoid developing the disease, or a more serious form of the disease, thus saving in treatment costs. The costs would be front-loaded rather than when it is absolutely necessary.

    I guess insurance comes into play at some point as well. Do you decelare your genome if you know it?
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      Jul 6 2011: Alex......I am 80 yo and right now I don't see any need for such. However if I were young and considering starting a family, I probably would. I would give the information only to whomever might benefit from it.
      • Jul 7 2011: I guess that if you were predisposed to a particular ailment you'd know about it by the time you're 80.

        Giving the information to others (mainly health insurance etc) might be the clincher though. At least in the UK, you are not covered for conditions you knew about before you sign up. Would this include knowing what genes you have?
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          Jul 7 2011: Alex.........Far as I know, Obama's new Bill does not allow insurance companies or medicare to refuse anyone with existing conditions to be refused insurance. I guess that would include genetic predisposition.