Genetic Testing for Cancer

DNA, double helix

DNA in motion, credit: Flickr

Most cancers are created by our environment and the aging of our bodies; a gradual buildup of defective cells that create illness.  About 5% to 10% of cancers have a hereditary element.  Angelina Jolie has become the poster child for the BRCA mutations and brought the discussion out of exam rooms and into the public arena.

The Most Likely Hereditary Cancers

Lifestyle choices and early screening have a lot to do with keeping cancer in check.  But for individuals with limited family history, genetic testing might be a good choice.  The most common forms of hereditary cancer are …

  • Breast cancer
  • Colorectal cancer
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Prostate cancer
  • Endocrine cancer

Genetic Testing for Cancer is Big Business

Ms. Jolie actually helped raise the stock prices of Myriad Genetics, a company that owns several U.S. patents in the area of genetic testing for breast and ovarian cancer.  In fact, 82% of it’s nearly $500 million in revenues came in just from their BRAC Analysis test.  They charge on average $3,340 for each screening.

Their July – September 2013 income results were 84% higher than the prior year.  As awareness and screening grows, this can easily be a multi-billion dollar industry.

Physicians and Detective Work

If a physician is treating a patient with cancer there are certain traits that indicate hereditary potential, among them multiple primary tumors in the same organ, multi-focal tumors in the same organ, and rarity.  A full list of risk factors is at

Physicians needs to make sure all of their patients have a good family history so they can properly assess risk and determine if screening is warranted.

Where Genetic Screening Is Going

The broader industry of genetic screening can test for everything from the potential of disease or dementia, to what is the best way to exercise for weight loss.  As consumers become more aware of services it’s likely patients will start arriving with reports to discuss with their doctors.  Is this a positive?   How does the proliferation of patents and genes effect pricing in the future?  Is this the best way to move forward in medicine?

We’d love to hear your thoughts and if you’re an M.D. or a D.O. we will be continuing the discussion inside Sermo.

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