Personal genetic test reveals surprising results
The Canadian Press
Published Saturday, September 22, 2012 7:00AM EDT
Last Updated Saturday, September 22, 2012 10:33AM EDT
What if you could see into your future, simply by spitting into a cup?
Freelance writer Julie M. Green was so intrigued by the possibility, she did just that.
"I have never met my biological father, so all my life it's been a huge question mark," Green told CTV's Canada AM, explaining her motivation for undergoing the test.
Green said she explored her feelings about that missing relationship in her novel, "Into the White," but "short of tracking him down and stalking him, which I didn't want to do, I had no way of getting those answers."
Not knowing the full extent of her genetic history was never an issue, Green said, until she became a mother.
Intrigued by the experience of a colleague who had undergone a complete medical at Medcan, a private clinic in downtown Toronto, Green found out it also offered personalized genetic testing and signed up.
Aside from the approximately $1,600 cost, Green said taking the personal genome test itself was an easy process.
After sketching out what she knew of her family tree in an interview, Green returned weeks later to deposit her sample.
"Physically, it was very, very brief," Green said, recalling how she spat some saliva into a cup, which was then taken away to be tested.
Green, who wrote about her experience in a column published by The Globe and Mail, was surprised to discover the hard part was yet to come.
"Really I think the emotional side is much more complex," she said, explaining that the clinic offers the service of counsellors to help clients work through their feelings as they wait for the result to arrive.
Then, when the results arrived three weeks later, she was surprised again.
"As it turned out, I found out more about my maternal side of the family," she said, pointing to her grandmother's health history as an example.
Green said she had always assumed her grandmother went blind as a result of smoking, but the test results made it clear a hereditary factor was at play.
"It turned out my grandmother has macular degeneration," she said, sharing her own newly discovered risk of developing the same condition.
"The average person, I think, has a 3.1 (per cent) risk of getting that, and I had 61 per cent chance, so I was staggered to find out that was in the cards, so to speak."
Green says she's happy to have a better understanding of her health history and prospects, and is not about to lose sleep over her newfound knowledge.
Instead, she's committed to regular ocular exams and taking eye-strengthening vitamins.
"I'm one of those people who believe that forewarned is forearmed," she said.
"It's a little scary, but I would rather know what's in store so I thought I'd take the risk."
According to Medcan's website, it is first clinic in Canada to offer personalized genetic testing in conjunction with in-person counselling.
Their test screens for a variety of health conditions ranging from Alzheimer's to rheumatoid arthritis, and gives clients a picture of how their genetic makeup could react with several drugs from antibiotics to warfarin.