Letter: Just live healthily and hope for the best

This letter sent to the Star was written by CM Langan, Sheffield, S8

Thursday, 31st October 2019, 11:49 am
Updated Thursday, 14th November 2019, 6:52 am

With programmes like Who Do You Think You Are? and medical science discovering more and more genetic components to more and more illnesses, people are turning to DNA testing kits which can be easily ordered online.

Politician Amber Rudd's daughter, Flora Gill, was one of the many people who found herself tempted. Hoping to find out more about her ancestry, she ended up getting a lot more than she'd bargained for. Basically, she discovered a gene mutation found in only 2% of the population that makes her, allegedly, fifteen times more likely to develop Alzheimer's. Needless to say, this put her in a real tailspin!

She's not alone. People are ordering these test kits with no prior counselling or aftercare. GP's, who are not equipped to deal with such cases and have no experience of these testing kits, are having to pick up the pieces when patients come to them in tears clutching their results.

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There was a discussion about this topic on Channel 5's, The Jeremy Vine Show the other day, in which he himself submitted a sample for testing and now awaits the results. Viewers were invited to phone in with their opinions. Needless to say, they were variable! One lady said they should be mandatory. To be forewarned is to be forearmed. Being told we are at potential risk of, say, heart disease, we can improve our diet and do more exercise to maximise our chances of a better outcome. We have some control as to whether the illnesses we're at risk of can develop and to what extent. However, someone else said why find out you're at risk of, say, Alzheimer's, and spend the rest of your life living in fear, especially if preventative measures can only be taken so far. I can see both their points. Knowledge is power, but it can also be dangerous.

People ordering these kits should do their homework first, research heavily, and ensure there is support available to deal with any possible fall out. Better still, there should be more legislation over the sale of these kits. Potential buyers should be questioned, informed of any risks, asked if they really want to go ahead and can cope with any of the consequences. After that, they can take responsibility for themselves.

Personally speaking, let's say that with Alzheimer's, heart disease, autism, allergy-related conditions, and multiple sclerosis all lurking around in my pedigree, I'd certainly think twice about ordering any of these kits.

Just live healthily and hope for the best. That's my advice.