Opinion: Amol Naikawadi
Genetic testing as a tool for an early cancer prevention
Thursday, February 9, 2023

Genetic Testing estimates genetic risks or predispositions to various health conditions based on one’s DNA. Technologically advanced prevention tools like genetic testing can contribute to personalizing the healthcare for an individual, thereby reducing the curative costs of non-communicable diseases like cancer. Unfortunately, many people are diagnosed at the very last stage which makes it difficult to treat, thus early detection of cancer is essential in order to ensure effective treatment.

What can one know from genetic testing?

As DNA is the blueprint of life, a genetic test uncovers an array of genetic information that makes one unique. This may range from knowing about one’s ethnic roots and family tree to the risk of developing various complex health conditions. Some of these tests may also give information about nutrition, fitness, skincare, habits, and even food preferences based on their genetic makeup. It lets them personalize everything according to what suits them the best. 


How does genetic testing make a difference in the field of Preventive Healthcare?

Considering a case that one opts for a direct-to-consumer genetic test, they receive a detailed report based on their DNA which majorly helps to:

·         Understand their genetic makeup

·         Personalize their lifestyle by making changes in diet and fitness plan

·         Delay or prevent the onset of diseases by observing relevant symptoms, following a healthy lifestyle & planning regular health checkups


Different types of genetic tests are available in the market, making it important to understand the specific information gained from each test so as to choose the right test that may answer your questions. While some genetic tests aid in diagnosis of specific medical conditions, others are predictive genetic tests that analyze an individual's genome at various positions to understand their risk for various complex and multifactorial health conditions. Genetic testing may involve an interplay of highly advanced technology and analytical minds in the background. Still, it is a simple process for the user - mostly done through saliva or blood samples. The report outlines the genetic predispositions/ tendencies for various diseases and traits in an individual. Post the reporting procedure, a genetic counselor recommends lifestyle changes based on your genetic test report and your medical & family history.


Around 5 to 10% of cancer cases are hereditary in nature, being passed down across generations. Inheriting a genetic variant linked to a particular cancer or a spectrum of cancers from either of the parents makes the person much more likely to develop that cancer. Cancers like breast, ovarian, colorectal, prostate, and endometrial occasionally run in the family.  However, it is important to realize most cancers are related to exposure to carcinogens and radiations, sedentary lifestyle, smoking, and unhealthy dietary habits, which means that a significant proportion of cancer cases can be prevented through correct and timely intervention. Individuals at increased risk for developing certain cancers because of family history should opt for a specific clinical genetic test called hereditary cancer panel testing.


Cancer is a critical illness that causes trauma and out-of-pocket expenses for the family. Prior knowledge about genetic risk for certain cancers can help devise a focused screening strategy that may facilitate prevention and early detection, thereby reducing the emotional and financial stress related to cancers. Increased awareness and education about early detection can effectively contribute to curbing cancer incidences.


Genetic testing very beautifully completes the circle of prevention. Suppose an individual has a genetic risk of developing a disease. In that case, they can prevent or delay the onset of the disease by making proper dietary, fitness & Habits modifications per their genetic code. Additionally, the genetic counsellor helps to streamline the surveillance and screening strategies and personalize the required health checkups and their timelines according to the need.


The article has been contributed by Mr. Amol Naikawadi, Joint Managing Director & Preventive Healthcare Specialist, Indus Health Plus.



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