Innovative Genetic Testing to Avoid Dangerous Risk FactorsJune 2017
By Scott Fogle, MD
LE: Last month you discussed the innovative neurotransmitter testing Life Extension® just introduced to customers. Are there other new tests?
Dr Fogle: Yes. Recently we partnered with a new company that provides access to cancer genetic testing. This test, called the DNA Genetic Cancer Risk Profile enables you to obtain information that creates an analysis of your predisposition or risk factors for cancer. Significant advances in technology have recently dropped the price of genetic testing, making it much more affordable for cancer screening of mutations related to cancer risk.
LE: What sort of information does this new panel tell us?
Dr Fogle: It analyzes an astonishing 98 genes from your DNA across 25 known hereditary cancer markers. The test uses next generation sequencing for precision and requires only a saliva sample. For example, if you inherited a mutation from one of your parents, you might have a greater risk of getting cancer, getting it earlier in life, and that cancer may be more aggressive. Genetic testing helps a person understand their individual risk and allows for creation of a more targeted health plan to reduce that risk. It can also help focus the frequency of your cancer screening. Those with increased colorectal cancer risk would likely want to increase the frequency of colonoscopies, do more frequent fecal occult blood tests, eliminate grilled and high temperature cooked meats, take targeted supplements to support colon health, increase exercise and so on. Again, I want to stress that having a mutation does not mean you will get that cancer, it just increases the probability of you getting that cancer. The good news is there are many interventions that can help reduce that increased probability.
LE: Does this new cancer test include looking for mutations in breast cancer risk like the BRAC1 and BRAC2?
Dr Fogle: Yes it does! Those are critical cancer genes related to breast cancer, but also ovarian, pancreatic and prostate cancer, and they are included in our new DNA Cancer Risk Test.
LE: What are some examples of the types of cancers that this test screens for?
Dr Fogle: It is a comprehensive list: bladder, bone, brain tumors, breast, colon, endometrial, esophageal, gastric, head and neck, kidney, lip, lung, oral, ovarian, pancreatic, pheochromocytoma, prostate, rectal, skin, basal cell, soft tissue, and thyroid tumors.
LE: Do most people test positive for mutations on this test?
Dr. Fogle: Fortunately, the answer is no. Most results came back “Negative – No Clinically Significant Genetic Mutations Detected” in all 98 cancer susceptible genes tested. This result does not mean that individual will be forever cancer free, but it does lower his/her probability of cancer, which is still a great feeling. The company we work with says that about 10%-15% of the tests they perform reveal a positive genetic mutation with the majority of people not showing one of these concerning genetic mutations. If you do have a mutation identified it does not mean you will get cancer, but it does increase your probability, so taking preventive action is strongly advised.
LE: Genetic testing sounds very expensive.
Dr Fogle: Just a few years ago, this test would cost around $30,000. Genetic testing was and still is expensive. Getting the same test even now through typical labs could cost around $10,000 or more. Fortunately, innovative new labs are working with significantly improved technology, resulting in dramatic savings. We partnered with one such cutting-edge company to offer this amazing technology to our customers at a special price for Life Extension customers of only $299, which is further discounted during our annual blood test sale. Ninety-eight cancer-susceptible genes tested for this price is a remarkable testament to the innovation of this new company, and we are happy to offer it to our customers.
LE: It seems like a test everyone could benefit from.
Dr Fogle: I agree. Given the epidemic of cancer, this test could alert you to your risk factors and help you make strategic changes in your lifestyle that could make a difference as to whether you get cancer or not.
LE: Can you tell me about Life Extension’s new offering of a test for Alzheimer’s and cardiovascular risk?
Dr Fogle: In order to provide the best and most complete diagnostic tools for our customers, Life Extension partnered with another company to offer a genetic test related to Alzheimer’s and cardiovascular risk. Up until now, the cost was just too expensive. It is called ApoE Genetic Test for Alzheimer’s and Cardiac Risk.
LE: Can you describe this test and what benefit it provides?
Dr. Fogle: It is an easy-to-do saliva test that reveals if you are genetically ApoE2 (good one), ApoE3 (neutral) or ApoE4 (problematic).
LE: Can you explain how this test looks at a connection between Alzheimer’s risk and cardiovascular risk?
Dr Fogle: ApoE is so important that a mutation could put you at risk for both Alzheimer’s and cardiovascular disease. ApoE is a protein, a class of apolipoprotein, involved in clearing harmful plaques that form around nerve cells. These plaques are a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease and consist of damaged and misfolded proteins called beta amyloid, which stick together to form toxic plaques. Therefore, you want your ApoE working for you to help control and remove the harmful buildup of these plaques. There are 3 variants of ApoE: E2, E3 and E4, and you get one copy from each parent, so you can be any combination of these three such as E2/E4 or E3/E4 or E3/E3 and so on. The E2 version is the best one to have! It is the most efficient at tackling those harmful plaques and helping destroy them. E3 is average at its job and E4 is inefficient at its job, resulting in more plaques building up and thus much greater risk of Alzheimer’s disease. The best scenario to be is E2/E2 and the worst is E4/E4. The most common result in the population is E3/E3, which is around 55% of the population and it equates to average risk. The next two most common combinations are E3/E4 at about 25% and E2/E3 at about 15% of the population. Again, E2 is the most desirable, and E4 is the least desirable. If a person has one E4, or worse, has two E4s then he/she should consider taking aggressive preventive action.
LE: Is it the same for Cardio-vascular disease, with E2 being the best and E4 the worst one to have?
Dr Fogle: Yes, it is nearly the same with one minor exception. If someone is E2/E2 there is a small subset of the population, only around 10%, who have increased cardiovascular risk, but the vast majority, about 90%, have decreased cardiovascular risk. So it is essentially the same for both—you want to have more E2. In cardiovascular disease, ApoE4 carriers are at an increased risk for cardiovascular disease, elevated triglycerides, elevated total cholesterol and elevated LDL. These elevations could stem from your genes, and it helps explain why some people have to work much harder than others to support and maintain healthy cholesterol and triglycerides. If you have two copies of E4, then you really have to work hard to mitigate your increased risk.
LE: These are very exciting new genetic tests. What about any additions to old tests?
Dr Fogle: Our very popular Food Safe Allergy test now has an additional panel. Our current panel, which has been so helpful for many customers, contains 95 items. Now, the new panel contains another 95 additional items. This new panel is especially helpful for those who are highly sensitive or seem to react to a large number of foods. The list of the different foods tested will be on our website as it is too long to list here, but some of the new 95 items include an extensive array of spices which can be problematic for some people. It also includes a lot of foods that are generally healthy, but not if you are a person who may be reacting to them, such as: yogurt, flaxseed, wild rice, pomegranate, white grape, coconut, chia seed, artichoke, eggplant, green olive, kale, kelp, sweet potato, squash, zucchini, carob, cocoa, and more. Sometimes people consume healthy foods like kale, flaxseed or pomegranate but feel worse instead of better and wonder why. The answer is they are reacting adversely to something surprising. I saw this several times in practice where a healthy food was actually causing problematic symptoms because someone had unique biochemistry. Even though a food is healthy for others, if you are reacting to it in an abnormal way it is unhealthy for you and needs to be removed from the diet for a period of time to help the body heal and recover.
LE: What about hormone testing?
Dr Fogle: For many years, we offered the 24-hour Urinary Hormone Test, which is a remarkable test. Most of our customers do the Male and Female Panels, which are unbeatable in the value they provide. They look at blood levels of hormones, which provide helpful information. However, for difficult hormone cases, it is more revealing to see a 24-hour hormone picture, and there are hormones, such as estriol, and metabolites, such as good and bad estrogen metabolites, that we can’t test for in the blood. Thus, this test can be important for some people to gain that extra insight into what their hormone challenge is. In my experience, testing both the blood and urine offers a much more complete assessment of hormone status that is exceptionally comprehensive. However, the 24-hour Urinary Hormone Test was inconvenient in that you had to carry a jug around with you all day. Now, the collection jug is gone! The new version of this comprehensive hormone test does just four spot urine collections to provide similar information. This change makes it much more convenient. In addition, it now includes melatonin and has a lower blood test sale price, making it a tremendous value. The new test is called the Complete Hormone Profile (dried urine).
Life Extension believes in providing its customers with as much information as possible to take control of their health and live long and healthy lives. For this reason, we offer innovative blood testing that your doctor may not know about or offer to you as a patient. With these new tests, this is a tremendous opportunity to learn as much as you can about hidden risk factors and make important changes to minimize these risks. These new diagnostic offerings from Life Extension, such as the DNA Genetic Cancer Risk Profile and ApoE Genetic Test for Alzheimer’s and Cardiac Risk provide unique information on your personal health assessment.
If you have any questions on the scientific content of this article, please call a Life Extension® Wellness Specialist at 1-866-864-3027.
Dr. Scott Fogle is the Executive Director of Clinical Information and Laboratory Services at Life Extension®, where he oversees scientific and medical information as well as its laboratory division.