Learn more about genetics with Dr. Ellie Cannon.

23andMe sat down with accomplished UK General Practitioner Dr. Ellie Cannon to discuss her thoughts around the merits of genetic testing. Here are a few excerpts from our conversation.*

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Dr. Ellie on genetics and healthcare

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Dr. Ellie on being proactive about your own health

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Dr. Ellie on genetic testing for everyone

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Dr. Ellie on patient empowerment

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Dr. Ellie on genetics and lifestyle

genetics and
healthcare
being proactive about
your own health
genetic testing
for everyone
patient
empowerment
genetics and
lifestyle

video transcript

How has genetic health advanced healthcare?

We talk a lot about risk factors and lifestyle, but actually a lot of our risks for diseases come from our genetics. I think for your average person on the street genetics is important for being proactive about your health, empowering people to take control, and really looking much more closely at disease prevention.

10 or 20 years ago genetics was very much just the domain of scientists and researchers, whereas now we're in a situation where we're offering genetic testing to the consumer.

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What are the advantages of people having a greater understanding of their own genetics?

As a GP, what I find most valuable about personal genetic tests is patient empowerment, so patients understanding their health, understanding their risk factors, and that makes for better consultations and a better partnership between a patient and a doctor.

There are huge advantages to being proactive about your own health, whether it's through lifestyle or through genetics. Really that's about empowering people to take control of their health, being mindful of risk factors. I really think that being proactive is a really important part of disease prevention for the individual.

We know that patients become a lot more motivated when they understand what's going on with their body and with their health. I think that's a huge encouragement in terms of taking control and being empowered, in the same way you would take control of your own exercise program or your own diet. I think it's part of the whole holistic process.

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Who can benefit from personal genetics?

Genetic testing can be for everyone. Personal genetic testing is a patient empowerment tool that anybody can do to take some control over their health and gain understanding of their risk factors. In certain families where diseases are very prevalent, they would be strongly encouraged to take genetic testing with a healthcare professional in order to screen for risks and specific genes.I think people hesitate possibly because they're concerned to know about these genetic risks and to live with them, and also there is some worry that they may not actually understand this knowledge or what it might mean, but I think it's really important for people to understand that actually knowing about these risks is a good thing and can help people make informed decisions.

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How important is patient empowerment and responsibility?

All doctors want their patients to be more empowered in terms of their health, and knowing your personal genetic risks is a part of that. Just like people take control of their diet and their lifestyle, we want our patients to be empowered, and that makes for great doctor/patient relationships and it also makes for really good disease prevention.

Taking responsibility for your own health is really good actually for society. All of our health services, all health systems are under pressure, under constraints from resources. If we have patients who are taking control, who are empowered, that makes all consultations better. It makes the doctor/patient relationship much more successful. It makes consultations much more successful. I think it's very important for the individual to take control of their health, disease prevention, and also treatment.

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video transcript

How do our genetics and environment interplay together to inform health?

Our health is a constant balance of genetics and lifestyle. Some factors are very, very strongly determined by genetics, whereas others are mostly determined by lifestyle. Really it's about the interplay of the two.

Genetics are crucial in terms of inherited conditions because those diseases are carried on your genes. If you were a carrier for a certain disease, you wouldn't know unless you had genetic testing, specifically, for example, that would be the case in cystic fibrosis.

Genetics can be very important in terms of drug response because how you respond to certain medications can actually be determined by your genes.

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Genetics and Healthcare

Being proactive about your own health

Genetic testing for everyone

Patient empowerment

Genetics and lifestyle

More Q&As from our conversation

Here are some other questions that we asked Dr. Cannon. Read her answers below.

More Q&As

*Dr. Ellie Cannon is a General Practitioner in the NHS and a media advisor, and in December 2015 entered into a consulting agreement with 23andMe to work as a media consultant and advisor. The consulting agreement is not conditional upon any obligation for Dr. Cannon to use, recommend, promote or purchase products or services of 23andMe in her capacity as a General Practitioner and is not intended to influence Dr. Cannon to do so.

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