The Pros and Cons of Genetic Testing

Genetic testing is a boon for mankind but there is a need to exercise restraint and prevent its misuse.


DNA animation (Wikimedia Image)

How come you have the same beaming smile as that of your mother or the same passion for music as that of your father? It’s amazing how we are so much like our blood relatives. The reason is the presence of genes that all our family members, old and new, share. However, despite this commonality every one of us is genetically unique with a genetic pattern which may resemble that of our relatives but is not exactly the same.

There are around 20,000 to 25,000 genes which define the strengths and weaknesses of our bodies. An alteration in their normal functioning can lead to various complications like putting us at risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes or birth defect. Genetic testing can predict these risk factors and help us take precautions but there are several side effects that also come along. The mapping of total human genetic structure has also paved the way for targeted medicinal use. It can be found out which medicines will get the best results depending on your genetic makeup. Read on to know more.

Pros of genetic testing

Medical science is making progress at a fast pace that there are now several genetic tests available to help you know about your body as well as about your yet-to-be born child. In fact, prenatal genetic testing is increasingly being recommended by doctors to avoid several birth disorders including thalassemia, haemophilia, and mental and physical retardation. Carrier testing of parents and screening of fetus and newborns is becoming increasingly common. However, prenatal genetic testing can also pose risks like miscarriages.

Besides detecting medical conditions, genetic testing is also turning out to be beneficial in forensic science. For instance, identification of criminals by putting a hair strand or blood found on the crime scene through genetic testing.

Genealogical genetic testing can also be done to find links between you and another person even if there is a difference of several generations.

Pros of genetic testing even extend to those at risk of several diseases, like cancer, heart disease and diabetes, to take precautions and delay the onset of these diseases. While cancer is known to be result of a gene mutation, heart disease and diabetes run in families for generations. If a person knows that he carries a gene for a certain disease, he will then take the necessary precautions to prevent or delay the development for such disease. For example, he can change his diet and lifestyle habits to delay or even prevent the development of the disease.

Genetic testing is particularly important in the emerging field of personalized medicine. You will be given the right treatment based on your genetic makeup. In this case, you and other patients may receive different drug and dosage for a particular illness.

Cons of Genetic Testing

While physical risks associated with genetic testing are not very significant, there are ethical, financial, and psychological issues that do get highlighted every now and then. It’s essential that those going for testing are given genetic counseling to prepare them for the outcomes.  There are also risks of genetic discrimination since insurance companies and employers can avoid offering services or jobs to those at risk of certain diseases. Thus, it’s essential that information from genetic testing is kept confidential at all costs to protect individuals from any kind of genetic discrimination.

Another addition in the list of cons of genetic testing is commercialization. With the high price of genetic testing, many cannot afford to avail the services of testing centers. In fact, genetic testing in some firms is overpriced but these firms are enjoying the profits they make every day. Genetic testing should be affordable to everyone whatever their economic conditions are.[ad#afterpost]