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Are Commercial Genetic Tests Worth Taking?
Date:10/14/2009

genetics at the American College of Medical Genetics and director of Intermountain Healthcare, Clinical Genetics Institute, in Salt Lake City. "Do we really know if this works or not?"

"We don't know what they do to help people or hurt them," Khoury added.

Some are tried and true, such as those to detect the BRCA 1 and 2 genes, which heighten a woman's risk for breast and ovarian cancer, or specific tests to figure the risk for Lynch syndrome, a hereditary form of colon cancer.

But take the example of several much-hyped genetic tests to help determine what type or what dose of antidepressant would be effective for different individuals.

"Researchers have found that even clinically available tests that are supposed to inform someone about specific doses or specific medications use virtually no evidence. We don't even know what to do with the results of tests in terms of dosing, etcetera," Williams said. "People are promoting this test to choose which SSRI [selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor] they should use and at what dose with almost no evidence. We'd love to be able to predict which drug to use, but the evidence just isn't there to support that."

And results could be alarming to some people, said Sandra Soo-Jin Lee, senior research scholar and medical anthropologist at the Stanford University Center for Biomedical Ethics, although one recent study reported that people who discovered they had a higher risk for Alzheimer's through a genetic test were not psychologically distressed by the results.

Perhaps they kept in mind that genes are only one factor that determine risk. The environment also has a lot to do with it.

For instance, "there is a fairly robust history of research around genetic variations a population might express in terms of how they take up those chemicals. So, in terms of caffeine metabolism, there may be some individuals that are fast metabolizers of caffeine so it goes th
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