What Role Can Genomics Play in Your Health Care?

Posted: April 25, 2017  

Many of us have family histories of heart disease, cancer, stroke or diabetes and maybe even Alzheimer’s disease. I know my family is packed full of most if not all of these diseases. I have often thought I would like to know if I had markers for certain diseases and then decided maybe I didn’t want to take the test because what if they are wrong. It is a difficult decision. If you could direct and improve your health care using genetic testing, would you?

Tens of thousands of genetic tests are currently available, including some available directly to consumers. Genetic tests have the potential to improve health in a variety of ways by informing health care through:

Risk prediction



Treatment, including choice of medication and dosage


Family health history is an important risk factor for common diseases, independent from traditional risk factors. More than 50% of the population is at increased risk of diabetes, cancer, or heart disease because they have close relatives with 1 or more of these diseases. Family health history has the potential to improve health by identifying people who are at risk for disease in the future or who are already sick but have not been diagnosed.

On the other hand, genetic tests that are not valid or useful have the potential to cause harm by prompting inappropriate changes in medical care based on incomplete or incorrect information.

The U.S. Precision Medicine Initiative, launched in 2015, aims to promote health and treat disease by taking into account individual differences in people’s genes, environments, and lifestyles. As genomics discoveries lead to new opportunities to improve health through the use of genetic tests and family health history tools, important challenges need to be addressed.

–   It is becoming increasingly difficult for independent review panels to evaluate quickly and thoroughly the evidence of the proposed health benefits and harms of the fast-growing number of genetic tests and family health history tools.

–   As the number of recommended genetic tests increases, valid and reliable national data are needed to establish baseline measures and track progress toward targets.

Want to know what is happening with genomics and what the future may hold? Read more at https://www.healthypeople.gov/2020/topics-objectives/topic/genomics.

Some other resources: