Sydney: A first-of-its-kind project led by Australian University is allowing young people to check if they are at risk of cancers or heart diseases through free DNA saliva tests.
The project announced on Sunday is claimed to be the world-first DNA screening study for such risks.
It will screen at least 10,000 individuals aged 18-40 for genes that increase the risk of certain types of cancers and heart disease, including DNA variants in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, and risk conditions of Lynch Syndrome.
Participants need to sign up on the website and place a saliva sample into the small tube received by mail and send it back for the screen test.
“Providing genetic testing based on family history alone is not enough. Up to 90 percent of those at high risk in the general population are not identified by current family history-based testing,” said the project leader, Monash University’s Associate Professor Paul Lacaze.
Researchers said DNA variants in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes could lead to an increased risk of hereditary breast and ovarian cancer in women. While it won’t react as strongly in men, it is still linked to breast and prostate cancer in men, and parents who carry these variants can also pass them on to their children.
Lynch Syndrome is another condition that increases the risk for colorectal, endometrial, and other gastrointestinal cancers. However, researchers said it has been proven that early interventions are available to reduce the risks of both cancer-related conditions. This includes attending annual check-ups and screens from age 30, and the option of risk-reducing surgery.
The test also encompasses heart disease risk, focusing on familial hypercholesterolemia or “genetic high cholesterol”, which results in a high risk of heart disease from a young age.
Researchers predicted that about one in 75 people could be identified as at high risk of these diseases. They will be offered further expert consultations and prevention measures, such as regular scans and check-ups.