Many people are confused between the terms “genomics” and “genetics” because these terms are often used interchangeably in health care. Genetics is the study of genes and how traits and/or diseases run in a family. In medicine, genetics primarily focuses on how changes (variants) in single genes are the main cause of inherited diseases, such as cystic fibrosis or Lynch syndrome.
Genomics is the study of all of a person’s genes (“the genome”),including the investigation of how different genes interact with each other and with a person’s environment. Genomics aims to better understand complex diseases, such as heart disease, asthma, diabetes, and cancer, which are typically caused more by a combination of genetic and environmental factors than by single genes.
Genetics and genomics come together in genomic medicine, an emerging branch of health care that focuses on carefully studying a person’s genome or DNA to make changes to improve that person’s health. Genomic medicine specialists at Genome Medical, such as genetic counselors, can help individuals benefit from genomic medicine as part of a genetic counseling consultation.