Carrier identification determines whether people who have a family history of a
specific disease or who are in a group that has an increased chance for that
disease are likely to pass on that disease to their children. Information
obtained from this type of testing can help guide a couple as they make
decisions about pregnancy.
Prenatal testing determines whether a
fetus has a disorder, such as Down syndrome.
Information gained from this type of testing can help guide decisions about how
to manage a pregnancy, including the decision about whether to end the
Newborn screening checks for various metabolic diseases,
phenylketonuria (PKU). Information obtained from
newborn screening can help guide medical treatment to ensure the best possible
outcome for the baby.
Late-onset disease testing determines whether
you carry a genetic change that increases your risk for developing a disease,
such as breast cancer or
Huntington's disease, later in life. This might be of
interest if you have a relative who has the disease. Information from
this type of testing can help you make decisions about preventing or managing
Genetic identification (DNA fingerprinting) can be
used to determine paternity, help solve crimes, and identify a body. DNA
fingerprinting is more accurate than dental records, blood type, or traditional
Compatibility testing looks at genetic markers to see if an organ for transplant is suitable for a person who needs it.
What are the risks of genetic testing?
Information from genetic testing can affect your life and the lives of
your family members. The issues involved include:
emotions you may experience if you learn that you have a greater chance of
having or passing on a serious disease can cause you to feel anxious or
depressed. This may also affect your relationship with your partner or other
Genetic counseling is recommended prior to genetic
Medical. A person who tests
positive for a disease-specific gene may decide to use preventive or treatment
options to reduce the impact or severity of the disease. Although many
treatment options are proved effective, others may be potentially dangerous or
of unproven value.
Privacy. Because genetic
testing is expensive, few people are able to afford it without help from
their insurance companies. Many people worry that genetic information released
to insurance companies may affect future employment options or insurance
availability. The discovery of a genetic disease that is not causing symptoms now (such as breast cancer or Huntington's disease) should not affect your future ability to gain employment or health insurance coverage. A law in the United States, called the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (GINA), protects people who have DNA differences that may affect their health. This law does not cover life insurance, disability insurance, or long-term care insurance.