Gene Disorders Influenced by the Environment
Sometimes altered genes can interact with environmental factors to produce a problem. For example, people who already have a genetic mutation that increases their risk of cancer may make themselves even more vulnerable to developing cancer by smoking. Some people may have an increased susceptibility to developing a certain genetic disorder, which their lifestyle habits may put them at increased risk of developing, such as asthma, diabetes or cancer.
Genetic Testing for Gene Disorders
If you are pregnant or thinking about getting pregnant, you may be considering genetic testing. Your doctor can use genetic testing to predict or diagnose some genetic disorders. These tests can usually be done with little discomfort to you and involve taking a blood, hair, skin or saliva sample to test.
You may have genetic testing done for several reasons:
- to determine if you are susceptible to developing a certain genetic disease
- to confirm a diagnosis of a disease
- to determine if you or your partner carry diseased genes
- to determine if your unborn baby will have a gene disorder
- to discover if your newborn baby has a genetic disease
Who Has Genetic Testing Done?
Certain people are at risk of developing a genetic disorder or passing one down to their children. Your doctor will advise you to have genetic testing conducted if:
- You have a family history of genetic disorders, birth defects or cancer
- You have had two or more miscarriages or stillbirths
- You have a child with a genetic disorder, birth defect or developmental delay
- You plan to become pregnant after the age of 35
- You receive abnormal test results indicating a genetic disorder or chromosome abnormality
- Your ethnic background puts you at higher risk of carrying a genetic disorder. For instance, Tay Sachs disease is more likely to be carried by Jewish people or those from Eastern Europe while sickle-cell anemia is more frequently carried in African-Americans.
- You plan to become pregnant with a partner with whom you are blood-related.
Should You Have Genetic Testing Done?
Deciding whether or not to have genetic testing done is an extremely personal decision. You will want to discuss your options with a genetic counselor. Although you may want to know what your chances of developing a certain disease are, having testing done may lead to unnecessary anxiety. Genetic testing also has several limitations that you should be aware of:
- Test results are not always accurate
- A positive result does not mean you or your child will develop a disease
- A negative result does not mean you will not develop a disease
- Tests do not indicate disease severity
- Tests do not take into consideration environmental factors
- Tests are expensive, ranging from $100 to a couple of thousand dollars