If you’ve ever been stuck in a waiting room, pen hovering over a clipboard and a long list of questions, you may not always be aware of illnesses or conditions woven into the tapestry of a family’s genetic makeup.
Many people don’t know anything about their parents’ health history. Since much of what health care providers know about us comes from intake forms that outline family health histories, it’s easy to miss something that could be the perfect path to preventive measures or behavior modifications.
The Medical University of South Carolina, in conjunction with Helix, has launched a community research project titled “In Our DNA SC.” The goal of this program is to investigate how your genetics impact your health and to develop ways of offering personalized health care to patients.
Cystic fibrosis, sickle cell anemia and BRCA1 and 2 are some of the better-known big-name issues encoded entirely in genes. But did you know that there are also genetic mutations that influence certain health risks?
For example, it’s quite possible that your late afternoon hankering for Home Team BBQ isn’t entirely to blame for your high cholesterol. It could be the fault of your great-great-great-grandpa’s quirky genetic mutation that decided to take up enduring residence in your family’s DNA, which admittedly is an oversimplification. Your diet can be a contributing factor, but being armed with the information that you’re predisposed to total cholesterol levels over 200mg/dL should help encourage you to make healthy choices to counteract the indulgence of delicious smoked meats.
As this science evolves, we inch ever closer to the ability to preventatively target what ails us as individuals, rather than taking a generalized approach.
Had I been aware of certain genetic mutations in my own DNA, I would’ve known to start screening for breast cancer at an age earlier than what the current medical standards dictate.
For the research project, MUSC and Helix utilize a saliva sample, taken at home or in person, and assess the impact of the your DNA on your current and future state of health.
In addition to assisting with the overall goal of the program, your contribution may impact your health today. You will receive test results you can share with your physician that indicate inherited risk factors for a variety of diseases or traits that screenings and intake forms may have missed. You’ll also have the option to create a free Helix account and will have access to a genetic counselor at no cost. You and your health care provider will then be armed with a wealth of information that could help you stay ahead of any surprises down the road.
Specifically, MUSC’s program will be searching for familial hypercholesterolemia, hereditary breast and ovarian cancer and Lynch syndrome, the most common cause of colorectal cancer in younger demographics.
Participants must be 18 or older and be able to read and write English fluently. A Spanish-language program is soon to follow. You may sign up or review more information from the comfort of your home by visiting InOurDNASC.org.
By Amy Gesell