Life is unpredictable.
News of people who seem physically fit (especially those who partake in vigorous exercises regularly) falling victim to life-threatening illnesses saddens me every time because it makes me wonder: if it can happen to them, it can happen to us – to me, to you, to anyone. Am I doing enough to prevent myself from suffering the same fate? What if all the frequent workouts and healthy eating habits that I’ve been practising don’t actually make any difference to my general well-being because the likelihood of contracting some chronic diseases is already imbued in my DNA?
The only way to find out more (apart from looking into my family’s medical history which isn’t very helpful, to be perfectly candid) is to undergo a DNA test which can now be easily done through at-home test kits. Quite a number of consumer genetics-test makers have sprung up when this industry boomed, but only one remained catered to the Asian market with a Singapore headquarter, and that is GeneLife.
Created by Genesis Healthcare (a privately-owned Japanese genetic testing and research company), GeneLife Genesis 2.0 is designed to analyse one’s DNA using saliva samples to determine the individual’s potential risks of acquiring common chronic diseases (such as hypertension, stroke and type 2 diabetes.. oh, the list is extensive), and to establish the metabolic type and genetic diet. Through this test kit, one would also be able to uncover his/her unique physical and behavioural traits, like skin type, drinking patterns and sleep behaviour. Furthermore, unlike other DNA test kits that are based in USA, GeneLife has a wider gene pool of Asiatic population so chances of accuracy are way higher (although I feel this would be more applicable to DNA tests for ethnicity).
Since our genes do not change in the course of life, taking the test just once is sufficient to help us make better health and lifestyle choices based on our risk profile. Even so, such test kits don’t come cheap and can set you back at least S$200 which I don’t feel comfortable parting with. Therefore, when Genesis GeneLife 2.0 was made available in the Shopee flash sale for S$97.75 (after further discount, and no shipping fee!), I knew right away that I should not pass on that deal. I mean, spend only S$97.75 to get key insights of my health destiny? Why the hell not?!
Taking the test, and why?
The test kit was delivered to my doorstep two days later – considerably fast given the current situation then. There was a consent form found in it for me to complete, as well as an instruction sheet that directed me to sign up for an account on the GeneLife website to register my kit. Also included in the kit were a user guide, an information booklet detailing all the items that my sample would be tested for, a tube where I would be spitting into, a screw-on funnel to prevent spillage, a zipper bag and an envelope to mail my sample back to the local GeneLife headquarter. Analysis results were expected to be released on my GeneLife account within the next 4 to 6 weeks. Once they were ready for viewing, I would be notified via e-mail.
I had to refrain from eating and drinking (plain water is fine) one hour prior to collecting my own DNA sample to prevent contamination. Once I had produced enough saliva in my mouth, I placed the funnel close to my lips and spat until the secretion reached the black mark indicated on the tube. Then, screwing off the funnel, I noticed some solution inside the tube flowing into and mixing with my saliva sample. With a few shakes, the tube was now ready to be sent back to GeneLife by post. The whole collection process took no more than 10 minutes! Easy and convenient.
Before looking at the results, I thought it’d be more meaningful to have some expectations set, somewhat as a gauge for accuracy. Since most of my late grandparents had diabetes and hypertension of some sort, I highly suspected myself to be carrying these genetic illnesses too so in a way, I wanted a confirmation. The investigative reporter in me also hoped to see if the test was able to pick out my known inherited disorders, like asthma, acne vulgaris (not sure if this is considered genetic since none of my immediate family members has this condition.. sadly) and ichthyosis vulgaris (from my Dad).
*drum roll*… My DNA test results!
From acknowledging receipt of my sample at the Singapore’s office, to its arrival at the laboratory in Japan, and finally informing me of my test results, GeneLife constantly kept me updated on the progress via e-mail throughout the whole duration of the four-week wait.
Due to privacy reasons, only results that are worth mentioning or are particularly of concern would be shared here (trust me, there’s a lot more to what you see below).
Some of these health revelations (e.g. slightly high risk of colorectal and bladder cancers) definitely came as a surprise to me because there isn’t any known family medical history of such illnesses, whereas there are few (e.g. high risk of acne, alopecia areata and atopic dermatitis) which were pretty much expected as I’ve already experienced them. What worries me most, though, is my high susceptibility to almost every lung-related disease listed (but strangely, I’m at normal risk of asthma?). This might have been inherited from the hardcore smokers on my paternal side because I don’t smoke, and I steer clear from secondhand smoke as best as I can. To mitigate these risks, GeneLife put forth a few preventive measures (as is similarly done for other risks identified) which include reducing exposure to polluted air by wearing face masks and installing indoor air purifiers, and consuming soy isoflavone and cancer-fighting fruits.
As for my behavioural traits and abilities, the indisputable ones would be my high hoarding tendencies (my exploding makeup collection is the best testament to this), my preference for evening hours (I’m a late-nighter as my productivity level rises after midnight) and low mathematical performance (this explains why I was perpetually failing the subject back in primary school, and why I’d need to use a calculator even for the simplest calculations – Math just isn’t in my blood!). And who would have thought that my natural complexion has actually been dark all along?!
This test has, no doubt, revealed a lot of previously unknown genetic facts about myself. You’d probably need to sit down for a couple of hours to look through all the results because they are rather extensive. That said, such tests only assess your risk of diseases, so having normal risk does not mean that you have immunity to them; it just implies that you shouldn’t go overboard with your lifestyle choices. Since my chance of developing Type 2 Diabetes is on the high side, this probably means that I’d have to cut down on my bubble tea intake 🤪 Huehuehue..
On a side note, once you have determined your susceptibility to certain diseases or genetic disorders, you can also start deciding on your next step in life. For instance, should you buy certain life-insurance policies moving forward as a safety net? Should you still procreate and risk passing on your genetic mutations (if any) to your offsprings (I’m fully aware of this particular IVF technique that allows you to choose your embryo.. but let’s not go down the rabbit hole of ethics)? I, for one, am glad to know the illnesses that would potentially befall me so I can act on taking the necessary precautions to prevent them. Most importantly, understanding my risk profile has also solidified my decision to be childfree.
Now, let’s see if I’m able to get my hands on a DNA test kit that traces my ethnic mix (i.e. ancestry). For that, I have my eyes set on 23andMe and CircleDNA! Any advice on which would be a better kit for Asians?
What are your thoughts about GeneLife, or any other at-home DNA test kits for that matter? Let me know your views (and how accurate your results are if you’ve taken one) in the comments below!
Thanks for reading!