For some, genetic testing arouses feelings of anxiety. Why would you want to know if your genetics predispose you to a condition you cannot change? It brings about a feeling of foreboding, many think they will spend the rest of their lives waiting for an illness or disease that is already written in their DNA to creep up on them.
This is not the case.
Your genetics, in most cases, are not the main cause of disease.
Lifestyle + Environment + Genotype = Phenotype.
To put it simply, your ‘phenotype’ is the set of observable characteristics taken from a genetic test. Your phenotype cannot be understood properly without taking into consideration your lifestyle and environment. It cannot be underestimated how much of an impact they both have on the results of a DNA Test.
However, it must be noted that around 7% of the UK population suffer with rare genetic disorders, usually hereditary, that unfortunately cannot be altered by environmental or lifestyle factors. These conditions are evident at birth and this is where genomic medicine and the research and development in the field can benefit people’s lives immeasurably by allowing doctors to understand which treatments are most effective.
Although Genomics is not a new breakthrough, the recent advancements and benefits shouldn’t be underestimated. As discussed in our previous blog posts, personalised medicine is one of the key benefits of genetic testing and has already helped many doctors and patients avoid unnecessary drug side effects, tailor treatment plans and provide preventative care. This has not only been noticed by the global medical community but also by governments around the world. In 2012, the 100,000 genomes project was set up to initially help patients with rare diseases and cancer being treated by the NHS. Over 50,000 patients have already been genetically screened, and their samples donated to further research. The benefits are already clear, with patients benefiting from personalised treatment plans and first-time diagnosis.
Genomic medicine can not only help patients with rare genetic diseases but also the general population. 17.7 million people die from cardiovascular disease (CVD) every year and this number can be significantly reduced through genetic testing. By analysing your genotype, clinicians can give personalised and preventative advice on how to significantly reduce your risk of CVD. Whether this is by prescribing drugs that your body is genetically predisposed to respond to quickly or by offering tailored exercise, lifestyle and nutrition advice.
Genetic testing allows you to understand your body better and gives everyone the opportunity to adapt their lifestyle to ensure they live a long and healthy life.
Next week, we’ll be continuing our Genomic Generation conversation and discussing what we think the future of genomics holds.
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