Genetic Testing 101

Genetic testing is appearing more and more frequently in everyday life. With products such as 23andMe available to the public for purchase, people can find out not only their ancestry but also if their bodies contain any genetic markers (predispositions) for diseases or other health factors.

While genetic testing can be a useful way to provide information, it is not strictly necessary in healthy individuals. In some cases, it might even create undue stress. For example, just because someone has a positive result from genetic testing for a disease, it does not necessarily mean they will develop the disease.
When can genetic testing be helpful?
Diagnosis. Genetic testing can help reveal if you have a disease if you begin to show symptoms.
Family History. If your family members have a genetic condition, genetic testing can help determine your risk factor for also getting the condition.
Babies. Some women have genetic testing done if they are trying in vitro fertilization. It is also used when women are pregnant to check the baby’s genes for abnormalities. Testing newborn babies’ genes is required in all states within the United States of America. This is when disorders such as sickle cell disease or congenital hypothyroidism can be discovered.
Medication. Genetic testing can sometimes help determine medication restrictions and dosage for those who have some health conditions or diseases. For example, some people metabolize certain medications faster than others, which can lead to complications and even death.

When having the genes tested, there can be three types of results: positive, negative and inconclusive. Positive results mean that the genetic change being tested for was found—if this happens, you should always talk to a doctor about what this means for you. Negative results mean that the gene change being tested for was not found—though this is not a guarantee that you will never get the disease or disorder associated with the gene. Inconclusive results occur when the test does not provide enough helpful information to make a definitive result.

Not all insurance policies cover genetic tests, so check with your provider before getting tested. Your results will be confidential, and under the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (GINA), health insurers and employers cannot discriminate based on test results.

Content by Lockton Dunning Benefits with info from