Secret Southern Couture: Weighing the Benefits of Genetic Testing   

Monday, January 20, 2014

Weighing the Benefits of Genetic Testing

Genetic testing is a popular subject for debate these days. While one can't deny the many advances made thanks to genetic testing, others cite the possibility for misunderstanding, or even misusing, such information. The pros and cons of genetic testing tends to be quite a controversial topic, especially with recent developments in the direct to consumer genetic testing market.

Because direct to consumer genetic testing is a relatively recent development, government entities are pushing back against private companies offering their services to the public at large. Not all tests can offer definitive results, and as in the case of prenatal testing, there is a fear that consumers may make drastic decisions that are not completely necessary. This seems to be a function of the technology developing quicker than the understanding of how to apply it in a real life circumstance, and because of this governmental agencies have felt the need to regulate the industry.

Protecting Consumers vs. The Right to Know

In the past, only medical professionals could initiate genetic testing. These tests were commonly used in certain circumstances, such as when there was a family history of illness present. With the focus put on genetic testing in popular culture, many consumers are rightly curious about the benefits of such tests.

Due to the proliferation of companies offering genetic testing services, virtually anyone can receive such tests, and usually for an extremely reasonable price – see more at genetic testing website These tests can uncover predispositions to certain illnesses, thereby giving the patient a resource he or she can then take to a physician for further discussion. The idea is that this sort of testing puts the power of one's healthcare in their own hands.

On paper this seems to be a great idea. However, there are a few downsides associated with such testing. While testing has advanced greatly over the years, there is still much not known about how results play into an individual's health. Some patients may find strong indicators for disease, yet never develop them. Conversely, a person may have no indication of disease, yet develop it anyway.

While in some cases genetic testing can offer definitive results, there is still quite a bit of room for speculation. For this reason, government agencies are forcing companies to scale back on their testing services for health conditions. The fear is consumers will misinterpret data, which can lead to drastic health decisions which may not be necessary.

Paving the Way to Treatments and Cures

Another argument can be made in favor of genetic testing, given how crucial such research is to medical professionals and others in the medical field. Because genetic testing has become much more accessible to the average person, test results are numerous throughout the world. These results may play a huge role in developing treatments and cures for a variety of illnesses. They can also identify  trends in certain geographic locations, as well as study the way diseases make their way through families or local populations.

The proliferation of genetic test results serves as boon to those studying genetic material on a large scale. Often, this research might take years to adequately compile. With a preponderance of information available from all over the world, advances in medicine could happen at a much faster pace.

Comprehensive databases are now in place to make studying this information even easier. While the applications for genetic testing may not be as numerous right now, with the sheer amount of information being made available, future research is sure to uncover the way DNA relates to one's health over a lifetime.

Making Genetic Testing Work for You

Like most technological advances, genetic testing can have both positive and negative affects. The overwhelming fear is that results will be misinterpreted, causing further harm to patients instead of helping them. When looked from a purely informational perspective, these test results are crucial to understanding the impact genetics can play on one's life.

It's important to remember that all tests should be interpreted with the assistance of a specialist, who can then communicate the results of the test, as well as the need for either follow up tests or further treatment. Tests are not meant to be a cure all, or a definitive answer to medical conditions. The benefits of genetic testing far outweigh the risks, and with a thoughtful perspective, these tests can translate to huge steps forward for the medical community.