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What are biomarkers and how can they help evaluate my health?

Picture yourself in a routine physical exam. The doctor takes a few samples of blood and urine or even asks you to spit in a cup. A drop of each sample is placed on a microchip and positioned in a tabletop machine in the doctor's office. The rest of the samples are sent off to a clinical laboratory. Your molecular profile has just been read.

Every disease leaves a signature of molecular "biomarkers" in our body — genes that turn on and off, or proteins released into the bloodstream. Biomarkers measured in blood and other samples can tell us the state of our health and how we might respond to treatment. They are powerful tools that can detect certain diseases at their earliest stages before symptoms appear, when they are most treatable. Biomarkers can also guide the physician to prescribe an effective drug that will be free of side effects. Biomarkers represent the future of medicine, in which disease diagnosis, treatment, monitoring and prevention will be guided by a continual readout of our molecular make-up.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.