Researchers have recently discovered five additional genes that are strong indicators of Alzheimer’s Disease. The full report, found in Nature Genetics, indicates that this doubles the number of genes identified as contributing to the disease. Genetic testing for Alzheimer’s is clearly in the future.
There are already genetic tests for breast cancer and ovarian cancer. Finding out you have the altered genes that are indicators of breast cancer or ovarian cancer gives you the opportunity to be watched more closely for any sign of cancer. Quicker detection leads to better treatment. But finding the indicators of cancer has also led some women to the drastic choice of risk reducing surgery: choosing to have healthy ovaries and/or breasts removed to reduce their chance of getting cancer. Finding out you have the genes for Alzheimer’s doesn’t give you many options: there is no preventative, and there is no cure. The best science has to offer, at this point, is slowing down the progress of Alzheimer’s and treating the symptoms that arise. So what’s the benefit of testing? For some, the ability to be tested may bring relief, regardless of the result, because at least they can stop wondering. The test isn’t fool-proof – even if you have the genes that are strong indicators, it’s not a guarantee that you will get the disease, and not having all of the indicators isn’t a guarantee you won’t get the disease.
If you have a mother or father with Alzheimer’s would you want to be tested??