It is said that “genetic testing” can prevent cancer. is it necessary to do so?

I don’t know when preventive genetic testing suddenly became very popular. 

It is said that just a little blood or a little bit of oral mucosal cells can be tested for genes that tell you about the risk of cancer and decode your genes! 

I can’t believe there’s still a little excitement in listening to it. 

But can genetic testing really help you predict cancer? Is it necessary for you to do a genetic test?

It is said that "genetic testing" can prevent cancer. is it necessary to do so?
It is said that “genetic testing” can prevent cancer. is it necessary to do so?

Today, we brought in Mr. Yip Sen, Ph.D. in Chemical Biology from the University of Hong Kong, and asked him to tell you about it.

The value of preventive gene testing is limited

In theory, genetic testing can help us understand the risks we may face and help prevent and treat cancer, because many tumor cells are accompanied by characteristic genetic mutations.

But for most ordinary people, there is no need for cancer genetic testing for prevention, which is of little help.

Of the known cancers, only 5% or 10% of cancers are caused by internal factors such as genes; moreover, for these 5% or 10% of cancers, preventive genetic testing can really tell us very little.

Genetic testing can only tell us whether there is a genetic variation associated with cancer.

No matter what the test results, there is no guarantee that you will have cancer. just like an anticancer diet, just because you eat does not mean that you will not have cancer. if you do not eat, it does not mean that you will have cancer.

This is a big problem.

Even if the risk is as high as 80%, it is impossible to determine whether you really have cancer, and without professional interpretation and further medical intervention, the results will only cause you unnecessary panic.

But if it doesn’t, can you stop paying attention to your health from now on? You know, cancer is closely related to unhealthy lifestyles.

Spend so much money, the final conclusion is actually a vague result, such an answer is worth it?

So genetic testing is worthless? 

No. 

For people with a high incidence of cancer with obvious familial genetic characteristics, preventive genetic testing may help these people respond earlier and reduce the risk of cancer. 

So, before you decide to do a genetic test, talk to a professionally qualified clinician to figure out the following questions: 

  • Have you ever been diagnosed with cancer personally or in your family, and are these cancers associated with a genetic mutation? 
  • Have you or your family ever been diagnosed with some kind of cancer at a young age? Cancer at a young age may be associated with genetic variation. 
  • Have your family (especially immediate family members) ever been found to carry cancer-related mutations (such as BRCA1)? 
  • If harmful mutated genes are detected, can interventions be taken to reduce the risk of cancer? 

Only by clarifying these problems can we better decide whether preventive genetic testing is necessary. 

At this point, many people may think of the movie star we know as Angelina Jolie. 

Julie’s two families (grandmother and mother) have both died of breast cancer, and she is one of the people with a high incidence of cancer with obvious family genetic characteristics. The results of her genetic tests also suggested that she carried a high-risk BRCA1 mutation gene. 

Doctors estimate that Julie has an 87% risk of breast cancer and a 50% risk of ovarian cancer. Julie then underwent preventive surgery and had her breast and ovaries removed one after another. 

So before you prepare for preventive cancer genetic testing, be sure to fully understand your family history and communicate with professionals to figure out what genetic testing can bring you and whether it is really necessary to do it.

Not all genetic tests are unnecessary

There are many kinds of genetic testing, and the “preventive cancer genetic testing” we talked about earlier is just one of them.

And for cancer patients who have been diagnosed, doctors sometimes perform genetic tests on their cancer cells.

These genetic tests, which face diagnosed cancer patients and need to be carried out under the guidance of doctors in order to treat them more accurately, are completely different from preventive cancer genetic testing for healthy people on the market.

Such genetic testing can help doctors locate mutated genes in tumors, provide the necessary information for personalized medical and precise use of drugs, and improve the efficacy of treatment.

In particular, when targeted drugs are used to treat cancer, because targeted drugs are only effective for cancers with certain gene mutations, blind use will not only increase the financial burden of patients, but may also interfere with the use of drugs and delay the best time for treatment. So patients have to have a genetic test before they can take the drug.

But again, such genetic tests are not preventive genetic tests on the market.

Don’t believe that there is a once and for all thing, the technology that can predict N kinds of cancer by scraping in the mouth does not exist.

If you are worried about the risk of cancer, you should pay close attention to a healthy life and have a regular check-up.

Reference:

  • www.cancer.org/cancer/cancercauses/geneticsandcancer/should-i-get-genetic-testing-for-cancer-risk
  • www.cancer.org/cancer/cancercauses/geneticsandcancer/understanding-genetic-testing-for-cancer
  • www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/causes-of-cancer/inherited-cancer-genes-and-increased-cancer-risk/inherited-genes-and-cancer-types
  • www.cancer.net/navigating-cancer-care/cancer-basics/genetics/genetic-testing-cancer-risk
  • www.nhs.uk/Conditions/predictive-genetic-tests-cancer/Pages/Introduction.aspx

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