In the modern world, people are increasingly becoming health-conscious and taking the necessary dietary and lifestyle precautions to reduce chances of contracting certain diseases. However, the story has taken a whole different turn.
It is not just about lifestyle and dietary measures alone; people are now doing their level best to understand their chances of developing diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and more.
In a nutshell, they want to understand their genetics and its deeper secrets. This is achieved by taking DNA tests which can reveal a lot about our health, potential risks, and future well-being.
Several studies have proven the strong correlation that exists between your gene and your health. Our genetics refers to the billion bits in our body and how they code to determine our biology and everything else about us.
By tapping into our specific genetic variants, we stand a chance to reveal lots of information regarding our health and future well-being. Scientists are now able to advise on ways of reducing chances of developing notorious diseases and their related costs by only understanding specific genetic variants.
Both genetic and behavioral & environmental factors determine our health. Let’s look at the genes that DNA tests look into and how they can help in understanding the risks of some diseases.
Breast And Ovarian Cancer
BRCA1 or BRCA2 genetic mutations cause complex diseases namely Breast and ovarian cancer. According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), BRCA genes belong to a group of tumor suppressors. However, when they are mutated, they cause uncontrolled cell growth leading to breast cancer.
Those families that have a history of breast and ovarian cancer have either BRCA1 or BCRA2 flowing in their hierarchy. Women who have BCRA genes are five times more likely to develop breast cancer compared to those without any genes.
On the other hand, they are 15-40 times more likely to have ovarian cancer. According to 23andMe DNA testing company, women of the Ashkenazi Jewish heritage are more prone to BCRA1 and BCRA2 mutations.
Celiac is a disease triggered by protein gluten and attacks the small intestine. Victims will have symptoms such as diarrhea and abdominal pain. Those who suffer from this autoimmune condition won’t have any physical symptoms.
In America alone, Celiac disease affects about 2 million individuals. Unfortunately, it has no treatment. Victims only have the option of avoiding gluten-diet. Genetic tests look for an immune system protein known as HLA-DQ because Celiac is 87% attributed to predisposing genes.
According to a study done by Navigenics, 1 in 22 individuals with a relative (child, sibling or parent) suffering from celiac will develop the diseases.
Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)
AMD is accountable for vision loss among those aged 60 and above. The condition deteriorates the retina that is responsible for image transmission to the brain causing irreversible vision loss.
Victims find it difficult to read, drive or recognize people. Some individuals have genes that predispose them to AMD. In fact, 71% cases of AMD are attributed to genetic components. Genetic tests look for a gene called ABCR.
Those with ABCR genes have a 30% greater chance to develop Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) compared to those without any symptoms.
Bipolar is a disorder associated with severe mood swings ranging from despair to euphoria, affecting more than 18 million Americans.
Genetic composition predisposes some individuals with the disorder, especially those aged 18 and older. According to 23andMe, about 93% of bipolar disorder cases are due to genetic heredity. DNA test singles out a protein marker that is encoded by a gene called ANK3.
According to a study carried out by the Center for Genetics Education located in Australia, an average person has a 2-3% chance of developing bipolar. However, the situation changes depending on the number of relatives having the disorder.
The risk of developing bipolar disorder increases to 50% if both of your parents have the disorder, 13% if a single sibling has it, and 70% if you have identical twins with the disorder.
Also, those with a mutation in “Fat” gene found on chromosome 4 are comparatively twice at the risk of developing the disorder.
You are obese if your body mass index (BMI) is 30 or higher or weigh at least 100 pounds. Even though scientists haven’t yet found out the specific genes that cause obesity, 84% of the condition is because of genetic heredity.
According to 23andMe, a gene known as FTO is accountable for an additional weight of 7 pounds among obese victims. Studies have shown that levels of FTO genes are higher in fatty tissues. Obesity is a worrying trend given that about one-third of Americans are obese.
Each year, about 50, 000 new cases of PD are diagnosed adding to the 500, 000 Americans already diagnosed with the disorder. PD, which is as a result of the loss of dopamine-producing brain cells mostly affects those aged over 50.
The average risk of developing PD is very low, about 1-2% in a lifetime. However, mutations in a gene called LRRK2 increases the chances of developing the disorder. Additionally, mutations in a gene known as G2019S also increase the chances of PD.
According to 23andMe, a person whose either parent has had G2019S mutations has a 28% and 74% greater chance of having PD at the age of 59 and 74 respectively.
Prevalence rates of psoriasis are very high in the U.S. Surprisingly, about 7.5 million Americans have psoriasis which is one of the most common autoimmune conditions. This is about 2% of the population which is quite high.
Psoriasis is a condition characterized by red, scaly lesions that cover any part of the human skin. Even though environmental factors can also trigger the condition, specific genetic variations predispose some individuals to psoriasis.
According to 23andMe, up to 80% of psoriasis cases are due to genetic heredity. Scientific studies have shown that mutations in a gene known as HLA-C highly increase the chances of developing psoriasis. However, other genetic mutations also predispose individuals to this disorder.