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Genetic Testing, Part 1: Reading Genes for Disease

Lauren Dubin at her home in Olney, Md. Several women in her family had breast cancer, she wanted to know if it was bad luck, or a genetic predisposition.
Tracy Wahl, NPR News /
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Lauren Dubin at her home in Olney, Md. Several women in her family had breast cancer, she wanted to know if it was bad luck, or a genetic predisposition.

Each year, doctors are armed with more genetic tests that can tell which people are vulnerable to what diseases. There are already genetic tests that can spell out an individual's risk of breast cancer, Huntington's disease or cystic fibrosis. But making the decision to learn one's genetic heritage is complex.

In a series of interviews, NPR's Joe Palca talks with people who have faced a decision to find out about their genes.

In part 1 of the series, Palca talks with Lauren Dubin of Olney, Md. Her mother, sister and several cousins had all been diagnosed with breast cancer. The question that plagued her: Was the disease a random occurrence in her family, or was it caused by a specific, inherited genetic mutation? So she contacted a genetic counselor, and made an appointment to take the genetic test that would provide the answer.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Joe Palca
Joe Palca is a science correspondent for NPR. Since joining NPR in 1992, Palca has covered a range of science topics — everything from biomedical research to astronomy. He is currently focused on the eponymous series, "Joe's Big Idea." Stories in the series explore the minds and motivations of scientists and inventors. Palca is also the founder of NPR Scicommers – A science communication collective.