Q. Colon cancer runs in my family: Should I get a genetic test? I worry that it will affect my insurance.

A. Under the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, most people are protected against health insurance (and employment) discrimination on the basis of genetic information. That means that legally, your insurer can’t raise your rates or deny you coverage because of the results. And hereditary red flags are a good reason to get a genetic test, says Marvin M. Lipman, M.D., Consumer Reports’ chief medical adviser. If you have a parent who received a diagnosis of colon cancer before the age of 50 or if colon, endometrial, ovarian, or stomach cancer was found in two relatives on one side of your family, you’re a good candidate.

Everyone should consider colonoscopy or an alternative method of colorectal cancer screening at age 50 (sooner for those at high risk) and repeat at appropriate intervals. But those tests don’t address genetic propensity. About 3 to 5 percent of colon cancers stem from an inherited condition called Lynch syndrome, Lipman says, which also increases the risk of ovarian, liver, and stomach cancers. People who have the syndrome have up to an 80 percent higher risk of developing colon cancer than others. So if those cancers crop up in your family, a genetic test is a smart move. If you have Lynch syndrome, your doctor may ask you to start colonoscopies early and repeat them annually, so she can spot and remove potentially cancerous polyps. 

Is your insurance giving you a bad case of sticker shock? For ways to ease the pain read "How to Get High-Quality, Low-Cost Healthcare."

Send your questions to ConsumerReports.org/askourexperts.

Editor's Note: This article also appeared in the January 2017 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.