PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – Genetics are like a blueprint to our health and genetic testing has become increasingly affordable — and can unlock valuable health insights that can impact the course of your health journey.

This knowledge is especially critical for underrepresented communities who can be more at risk for certain health conditions, including cancer, to feel empowered to take ownership of their health.

General Manager of Invitae’s oncology business, Jerome Madison, explained the importance of being proactive when it comes to health.

“It’s important that you understand your family’s history, both sides, learn as much as you can and talk to your family physician about your family history because genetic information can help give clues that might lead to a diagnosis or unlock an understanding about a genetic condition that you may not know you even had to create a proactive plan for your wellness and annual visits,” Madison said.

Madison emphasized the importance of genetic testing as some communities are more at-risk for certain diseases.

“The American Cancer Society, for instance, reports that Black Americans are at a greater risk for death from a cancer diagnosis. But white Americans tend to have a greater rate every year of new cancers,” Madison said.

He added “genetics can play a key role in closing that disparities gap because if you understand your genetic risk of developing a certain disease, your insurance plan might pay for advanced screening and your health care provider may be a little bit more intentional with your annual wellness visits for looking for certain things that they might be able to see.”

Madison said without genetic testing, the health disparity gap may widen.