A Dad and Scientist's View on Genomic Health
Back to Blog

By Barry Starr, PhD, Director, Scientific Communications, Ancestry

As we approach Father's Day, I was excited to see results from a recent survey from Ancestry® that showed that dads, like me, know that understanding their genes can be foundational to how they care for their own health, and understand their family's health. For example, the survey found that 70 percent of dads are interested in knowing their own and their partner's genetic health risks to prepare and empower their children. You can check out some of the other fascinating results in the infographic below. [1].  I've experienced first hand the value in knowing one's genetic story, as understanding mine allowed me to detect a potential health risk and take action.  This important realization for me came roughly ten years ago. Even though I was aware that certain conditions ran in my family, I ignored my risk.  It wasn't until I had to undergo routine blood testing a decade ago that I began to understand that the risks are real. Once I had that data, I talked with my doctor and made lifestyle changes that have kept the condition from advancing to this day.  This story says a lot about me and maybe some other dads out there [2]. If I am feeling healthy enough, I sometimes find myself putting the needs of my family first and, ultimately, rarely finding the time to see a doctor about my own health. And waiting a decade to learn about a potential risk could be a dangerously long time. As a scientist, I need real data to encourage new behaviors for my health and encourage more conversations with my physician to discuss prevention. The AncestryHealth®genetic test checks both of these boxes. AncestryHealth currently includes genetic tests to determine an individual's risk for developing 9 different conditions, and later this year, it will include even more conditions. This means I can use the AncestryHealth test to potentially find something in my DNA and then, if something is found, visit my doctor to discuss next steps. Let's take Lynch syndrome as an example. People with Lynch syndrome, also known as hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer, can have up to an 80% chance of developing colon cancer in their lifetime [3]. Knowing your risk is an incredibly important data point to have. This is because you can work with a doctor to take actions, if appropriate, like earlier and more frequent colonoscopies that may  prevent  colon cancer from developing or at, the very least, catch it early when it is more treatable. This is also great information to understand because it applies to members of your family. A child of someone with Lynch syndrome has a 50% chance of having the DNA difference linked to Lynch syndrome and an increased chance of developing certain cancers in their lifetime [4]. Having this information is important for you and your doctor in managing your risk and developing a plan. I'm thankful that a better understanding of my health risks led me to adopt a healthier lifestyle, for myself and my family.  While AncestryHealth was not around back then, I am glad it's available now. And as a scientist, I am excited that this summer AncestryHealth will include a more advanced technology to look at your DNA -- Next Generation Sequencing (NGS). This technology is more likely to identify a genetic health risk, so more people can be better informed about their risks. Plus AncestryHealth also includes a Family Health History tool, an easy-to-access family tree that allows you to create and save generations of your family health data so that you can easily print and share it with your healthcare provider. They may be able to see patterns in your family health history that can alert you to other hereditary risks. As a scientist and a parent, I encourage you to take the first steps in better understanding your genetic health story . To learn more, visit: https://www.ancestry.com/health Save up to $50 on DNA kits for Father's Day. Give Dad the unique gift of learning about his origins and his health. Find out more here.


[1] Nationwide online Ancestry survey conducted in April 2020, found that 70% of dads are interested in knowing their own and their partner's DNA in relation to their children's health; 47% of dads are interested in this to prepare children for any medical issues the parents might experience later in life; 45% of dads are interested in this to empower children to make informed decisions about their own health.  [2] Cornally, N., et al. The Influence of Gender and Other Patient Characteristics on Health Care-Seeking Behaviour: a QUALICOPC Study. BMC Family Practice, BioMed Central, 1 Jan. 1970, bmcfampract.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12875-016-0440-0. [3] Anderson, and MD Anderson Cancer Center. Q&A: Understanding and Managing Lynch Syndrome. MD Anderson Cancer Center, MD Anderson Cancer Center, 5 Jan. 2010, www.mdanderson.org/publications/cancerwise/qa-understanding-and-managing-lynch-syndrome.h00-158589789.html#:~:text=Men with Lynch syndrome have,between 5% and 10%. [4] Talking to Your Family about Your Lynch Syndrome Diagnosis. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 13 Sept. 2018, www.cdc.gov/genomics/disease/colorectal_cancer/talk_family.htm.   AncestryHealth® includes laboratory tests developed and performed by an independent CLIA-certified laboratory partner, and with oversight from an independent clinician network of board-certified physicians and genetic counselors. The test results are not diagnostic and do not determine your overall chance of developing a disease or health condition. The tests are not cleared or approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. You should consult a healthcare provider before taking any action based on AncestryHealth® reports, including before making any treatment, dietary, or lifestyle changes. AncestryHealth® is not currently available in New York, New Jersey or Rhode Island.