Understanding differences in genetic testing

Questions of genetic health loom large for Jewish and interfaith families because of higher risks for some genetic disorders and hereditary cancers. When couples plan to have children, carrier screening provides an assessment of their risk of conceiving a child with a genetic disorder. For individuals of Jewish descent who may carry a mutation for one or more hereditary cancers, screening offers a way to understand and possibly reduce risk. 

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Today, more people than ever use ancestry testing to learn about their family's past and to connect with far-flung relatives. But while some ancestry tests provide limited health-related information, these tests are no substitute for genetic screening tests and the clinical support that comes with them. 

Questions of genetic health loom large for Jewish and interfaith families because of higher risks for some genetic disorders and hereditary cancers. When couples plan to have children, carrier screening provides an assessment of their risk of conceiving a child with a genetic disorder. With this knowledge, couples have the information they need to address the needs of a child who has a disorder, or to avoid the possibility of passing on the disorder in the first place. 

For individuals of Jewish descent who may carry a mutation for one or more hereditary cancers, screening offers a way to understand and possibly reduce risk.

Because results have the potential to shape future medical and reproductive decisions, genetic counseling is an essential part of screening. Genetic counselors provide personalized risk assessment and education, and help individuals and couples think through what they will do with the results of a test prior to receiving them. Genetic counselors can also help you understand what results mean for other members of your family.

The Norton & Elaine Sarnoff Center for Jewish Genetics is your resource in our community for education, access to expertise, and a comprehensive carrier screening program. 

Visit JewishGenetics.org to get the facts about genetic health and to learn more about the Center's programs and services. 

Sarah Goldberg is senior associate for Community Engagement at the Norton & Elaine Sarnoff Center for Jewish Genetics, a supporting foundation of JUF.


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