Do You Want to Know What Serious Illness Lies in Your Future?

Would you want to know if you had cancer in your future?  Thanks to all the milestones researchers are making in genes and genetic makeup, you probably can.

According to newswise.com, using a small amount of blood or saliva, a technology called whole genome sequencing makes that possible – and more than half of parents surveyed  said they’d not only be interested in the technology for themselves but for their children too, a new nationally-representative University of Michigan study shows.

For obvious reasons, mothers as a group in the study and parents whose youngest children had more than two health conditions had significantly more interest in predictive genetic testing for themselves and their youngest children while those with conservative political ideologies had considerably less interest. More than three- fourths of parents also showed the same interest in genome sequencing for themselves as they did for their kids.

As a cancer survivor, would I have wanted to know it was coming?  I don't think so.  Knowing me, I would have spent the months and years till it reared its ugly head worrying and obsessing and generally, not enjoying life at all.

Since I find ways to worry about just about everything, I would want to know the exact minute cancer developed in my body, and I would be on the lookout for any telltale symptom while ignoring everything else that happened in in my life.

As usually happens, the disease snuck up on me, on a routine exam.  And I have to say, I'm glad that it did.  I would not have wanted to spend the years prior to my diagnosis thinking 24/7, is it coming today?  Will it be here when I come back from vacation?  Will it make its presence known before my son's fourth birthday (which, it did).

But what about those who want to plan?  Of course, these genetic forays only tell us the chances of developing a certain disease.  They don't yet have 100% accuracy.  It's like the BRCA test for the breast cancer gene.  Yes, your risk is up to 80% for breast (and ovarian cancer), but there's still the lucky 20% who don't get it, even with the gene. (I didn't have it, and I got it.)

he study found that about 59 percent of the total population, including both parents and nonparents, were interested in genome sequencing. Nearly 62 percent of parents said they’d be interested in the complete DNA read for themselves and 58 percent of parents were interested for their children.

Planning to have a child in the next five years was also significantly associated with greater interest in genome sequencing among adults overall but not significant among current parents. Authors speculate this could be because parents who have already had a healthy child may have “minds at ease concerning their own genetic makeup” compared to nonparents.

But what's that old saying?  The past's history, the future a mystery.  Today is a gift. That's why it's called the present.  I'm here in the now (cancer taught me).  And you know what?  It's the best place to live.


What’s Your Genetic Destiny? More Than Half of Parents Want to Know Disease Risks for Selves, Kids

85 % of parents had identical interest for selves and children

Released: 9-Mar-2015 8:05 AM EDT
Source Newsroom: University of Michigan Health System
Contact Information Available for logged-in reporters only
Citations Public Health Genomics
Newswise — ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Would you want to know if you or your children had risk of hereditary cancer, a genetic risk for cardiovascular disease or carried the gene associated with developing Alzheimer’s disease – even if they were risks that wouldn’t be relevant for possibly decades or didn’t have a cure?
Using a small amount of blood or saliva, a technology called whole genome sequencing makes that possible – and more than half of parents said they’d not only be interested in the technology for themselves but for their children too, a new nationally-representative University of Michigan study shows.
Mothers as a group and parents whose youngest children had more than two health conditions had significantly more interest in predictive genetic testing for themselves and their youngest children while those with conservative political ideologies had considerably less interest. More than three- fourths of parents also showed the same interest in genome sequencing for themselves as they did for their kids.
The findings appear in this month's online-ahead-of-print issue of Public Health Genomics.

“As genome sequencing becomes faster and cheaper, we expect the technology to become used more frequently in clinics and the private market. We wanted to know what kind of factors influenced patient demand for this test, especially among parents,” says senior author Beth Tarini, M.D., M.S., assistant professor of pediatrics at U-M’s C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital and researcher at the Child Health Evaluation and Research (CHEAR) Unit.
“Particularly fascinating was that parents’ interest for having predictive genetic testing done for themselves reflected their interest in testing their children too – it appears to be a global decision for the family.”
The study found that about 59 percent of the total population, including both parents and nonparents, were interested in genome sequencing. Nearly 62 percent of parents said they’d be interested in the complete DNA read for themselves and 58 percent of parents were interested for their children.

Planning to have a child in the next five years was also significantly associated with greater interest in genome sequencing among adults overall but not significant among current parents. Authors speculate this could be because parents who have already had a healthy child may have “minds at ease concerning their own genetic makeup” compared to nonparents.
Whole genome sequencing is a laboratory process that examines a person’s DNA makeup in order to provide information about the risk for developing diseases in the future, as well as to diagnose active symptoms or diseases. Currently, the technology is most commonly used to find a medical cause for patients who already have symptoms for an undiagnosed health condition.

While sequencing could reveal risk of a handful of rare and preventable diseases, authors note there is concern for how accurately the information would be interpreted and how useful it will actually be for patients.

“It’s a test that gives you a lot of data but the devil is in the details,” says one author of the study. “First, interpreting the data is challenging, because we are not sure what all of the data means. Second, even if you can interpret the data, then you may not know what to do with the interpretation. Perhaps you learn you have a slightly higher risk of getting prostate cancer or diabetes – neither of which is for certain or in the near future. Now what?”

So it all goes back to how much you want to know, how much you want to prepare for.  As someone who used to live in the future, ignoring the present all around me, I've found staying in the moment is so much better.  Cancer taught me that.  No one knows how much time they have on this earth and these tests probably aren't going to tell you either.

I kind of believe in fate, that what's meant to happen is going to happen. It's how I finally got my son, after five years of failed fertility treatments.  I knew he was out there, and he would be mine some day.  And finally, it happened.

So, you know the old saying?  The past is history, the future, a mystery.  But today is a gift. That's why they call it the present.  It's a good place to live.




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