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What is Predictive Medicine?

Dr. Pedro Pérez Segura, Personalised Predictive Medicine Unit

At the beginning of this century, Dausset defined predictive medicine as “the identification of healthy individuals who are predisposed to develop a certain illness”.

Since the beginning of medicine, when evaluating a person, doctors have always assessed what risk factors they present for developing a disease process:

  • Personal factors (lifestyle habits)
  • Genetic factors (family history)
  • Exposures (risky jobs)

All of this has allowed us to make prognoses of potential risks, always in a less scientific way, based on observational and/or statistical data.

Furthermore, this evaluation does not allow us to be too specific about the real risk of the person being attended to, or the group of people similar to them.

In recent years, increased knowledge of illnesses, along with technological advances and a growing demand from the population to know the causes of illnesses, have allowed a continued development of predictive medicine.

Currently, there is no area of medicine which does not in one way or another have a certain amount of development in the field of prediction. Oncology, Cardiology, Nutrition, Neurology, Sport; all are beginning to benefit from advances in this field. However, the time of development is very varied.

There are certain situations in which we cannot provide detailed advice to individuals who visit our unit to evaluate the risk of developing an illness because current data is not supported by scientific evidence; on other occasions we may know the risk of a person developing a certain condition, but be unable to offer an effective prevention programme to avoid the development of said illness.

Despite these aspects which are yet to be resolved, the reality is that the speed with which new genetic analysis technology associated with computer elements (big data), as well as expert professionals in this field are incorporated, as allowing us to have more tools available each day to prevent illnesses, or in the worst case, diagnose them earlier and earlier, with the impact that this has on survival rates and quality of life.

At this time, many people benefit from predictive medicine thanks to units like ours, in which multiple risk factors are evaluated and personalised programmes are proposed for monitoring and managing risk, with early diagnoses, and occasionally the prevention of illnesses which would have entailed a significant deterioration of quality of life, or even death.

I would not like to end this post without emphasising the fundamental aspect of predictive medicine: the professional. Effectively, in recent years, there has been an enormous increase in useful information for evaluating the personal risk of each individual and proposing personalised programmes for action; however, information is more complex each day, and this requires expert professionals who know how to interpret this information and take charge of monitoring these individuals, as well as the implementation of all news in the field of prevention which may be useful in each case.

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