Can genetic tests predict our cancer risk?

4-3-2019 michigan med l gene educate keyvisual
Image: University of Michigan

The [UK] health secretary, Matt Hancock, [recently] shared his shock at discovering that he is at greater than average risk for prostate cancer, despite having no family history of the disease.

The revelation came after he took a predictive genetic test that assesses risk for 16 common diseases, including coronary artery disease, type 2 diabetes, asthma and breast and prostate cancers.

Hancock said the test might have “saved his life” and that such tests should be urgently rolled out on the NHS, to guide screening programs and the age at which drugs like statins are prescribed. However the suggestion was immediately met with controversy. Some claim that the usefulness of predictive DNA tests has been overstated.

Related article:  Viewpoint: Why science hasn't given us a cure for cancer: We're still 'trying to understand it'

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So are predictive genetic tests going to revolutionise prevention and treatment of common diseases or should we be sceptical?

Currently, [Professor John Bell] said, [breast cancer] screening programmes face huge problems: they are expensive, they give lots of false positives and miss people such as women in their early forties who never enter routine screening for breast cancer, but who have a high genetic risk. “It’s all slightly hopeless,” he said. “This is exactly what we need.”

Read full, original post: Are genetic tests useful to predict cancer?

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