Did you know genes are the bits of DNA that give our cells their marching orders? (Think Beyoncé getting us all in formation.) They make up who we are at our most basic cellular level. And the billions of cells we’re born with play an incredibly important role in our health.
When it comes to our bodies, genes run the show, telling our cells how to create the various proteins that keep us going. It’s a huge job, one that requires all our 20,000 to 25,000 genes working in harmony to give our bodies the orders that help keep us healthy.
We inherit each of our genes directly from our parents – two copies of every gene, one passed on from each of our parents. Most genes are exactly the same from person to person, but a small fraction – less than 1 percent of those thousands of genes – have slight differences. It might not sound like much, but it’s those small DNA differences that give each of us (unless you’re an identical twin like Tia and Tamera) our unique set of physical features. She get it from her mama and her dad.
Understanding Genetics is Important…
When your family history indicates a pattern
A family history of cancer may mean there’s an underlying genetic cause. Once you understand how genes and mutations work, you’re better equipped to work through your family history—and better equipped for conversations with your healthcare provider or a genetic counselor.
When you want to be proactive about your health
Understanding the basics of genetics—especially how mutations can lead to a higher risk of certain cancers—gives you better information about your overall health plan. About genetic testing. And about discussions to have with your healthcare provider.
When you’re curious or you want to fill in the gaps
A complete family history means collecting three generations of health history– yours, your parents’, and your grandparents’. And sis, we get it- trust us. Though it may not always be possible, understanding your own genetic makeup can help you—and your healthcare provider—work backward to fill in the gaps. And even if you’re simply curious about your own health, understanding the basics of genetics is a proactive way to get a better overall view.