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Should Genetic Testing Be Used To Prevent Thyroid Disease?

In the past I’ve spoken about the book “Outsmart Your Genes”, where the author talks about using genetic testing to prevent certain conditions from developing.  Even though the book is medically oriented, I found it to be an interesting book to read.  But I wanted to bring up the question as to whether genetic testing should be used to help prevent thyroid disease, including autoimmune thyroid conditions such as Graves’ Disease and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis.

This topic might not seem pertinent to those people who already have a thyroid condition or an autoimmune thyroid disorder.  But if you have children or grandchildren, or even if you don’t at this time but are planning on having them one day, then this very well might help prevent them from developing thyroid or autoimmune thyroid conditions.  After all, while genetics is important, some studies show that environmental factors play a greater role in the development of these conditions, as they can trigger an autoimmune response in someone with a genetic marker for these conditions.  So if one knows they have a genetic marker for a thyroid or autoimmune thyroid condition, then perhaps they can do what is necessary to prevent such a condition from developing.  The same thing can be said for other conditions as well.

Even though this may sound logical, I still have mixed emotions about genetic testing.  While there definitely are some benefits to it, I’m still not at the point where I would recommend that everyone should be tested.  Part of the rationale behind this is that I recommend for people to live a healthy lifestyle regardless of whether or not they have a genetic marker for a specific condition.  On the other hand, I also realize that many people aren’t going to live a healthy lifestyle.  If people were made aware that they were more susceptible to a certain condition, then perhaps it would further motivate people to live a healthy lifestyle.

How To Determine Whether Genetic Testing Will Help

The only real way of knowing whether doing genetic testing will help to prevent conditions such as hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism from developing, as well as autoimmune disorders such as Graves’ Disease and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, is to actually do the genetic testing.  In other words, one can debate back and forth whether or not doing genetic testing would help to prevent certain conditions from developing.  But the only surefire way of finding this out is to choose a few thousand people who don’t have a thyroid condition and then have them go through the genetic testing process, and then for those who have a genetic marker for a thyroid or autoimmune thyroid condition they would need to keep track of them over a period of years.  Obviously it would take quite awhile to figure out whether genetic testing would prevent thyroid conditions from developing.

Besides it taking a long time to determine whether genetic testing truly can help prevent thyroid conditions from developing, another problem with taking the approach I just mentioned is that some people have an underlying thyroid or autoimmune thyroid disorder and do not know it.  This can be true even if all of the thyroid blood tests are negative.  So this no doubt can affect the results of such a study.

Although I’m not opposed to genetic testing, I’m currently not in favor of having every single person receive it, at least as a predictor of developing certain conditions.  On the other hand, perhaps it can have some value in other areas.  For example, in a blog post I made on a similar topic about one year ago, I had someone comment that such testing can be helpful to tell whether someone is allergic to certain medications.  Perhaps genetic testing can eventually be used to predict how people will react to certain foods, as well as nutritional supplements and herbs.  So there definitely are some good potential benefits of genetic testing.

In summary, while I’m currently not in favor to use genetic testing on every single person to help prevent thyroid disease, perhaps my opinion will change in the future.  If I thought it would truly help to prevent a thyroid or autoimmune thyroid condition from developing then I without question would be in favor.  I just don’t think it would have a great impact, although this of course is just my opinion, and I might be completely wrong.  So I’m definitely not against testing this out, although as mentioned earlier in this article, this can be a challenge.  In any case, there is no doubt we’ll be seeing more and more people receive genetic testing, and so perhaps ten to twenty years from now we’ll find out whether it truly can help prevent thyroid disease from developing, as well as other conditions.