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Consumer Genetic Testing May Not Boost Users' Anxiety
Date:1/12/2011

By Amanda Gardner
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Jan. 12 (HealthDay News) -- People who have direct-to-consumer genetic testing don't experience any short-term increase in anxiety after receiving the results, whether they are positive or negative, researchers report.

Nor do they make any lifestyle changes or get screening tests that might modify that risk, despite professing the intention to do so, according to a study in the Jan. 13 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

"This has been a contentious area," said senior study author Dr. Eric Topol, director of the Scripps Translational Science Institute in La Jolla, Calif. "There have been proclamations that this would induce a tremendous amount of fear and trauma for people and speculation as to whether it would help at all, and there were some things [in this study] that were encouraging."

This is the first study to investigate the impact of such genome-wide scans on people, he added.

Direct-to-consumer genetic (DTC) testing, in which consumers can have their genome checked for everything from caffeine metabolism to Alzheimer's risk, is a relatively new phenomenon, and experts are still sorting out the pros and cons of the practice.

Last year, Pathway Genomics announced that it would start selling tests (in general, the test can cost from $400 to $2,000) at Walgreen's stores, which are ubiquitous in the United States. (Walgreen's reversed its decision, however, after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration raised questions about the supplier.)

Even if patients are not disturbed by the results of direct-to-consumer genome-wide profiling, experts are worried that the results may not be valid. Dr. Bruce R. Korf, president of the American College of Genetics, is concerned about is whether the data "given to patients was accurate to patients. This [study] was not intended to assess whether the tests had clinical validity or were clinical
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