And there has been considerable debate on that point. An undercover investigation of 15 DTC genetic testing services by the U.S. General Accounting Office found "'egregious examples of deceptive marketing, in addition to poor or nonexistent advice from supposed consultation experts," according to the medical journal The Lancet.
The current study examined about 2,000 participants who were recruited to take a genome-wide test known as Navigenics Health Compass, described by the study authors as "a commercially available [genetics] test of uncertain validity and utility," at a discounted rate. In a baseline questionnaire completed by the participants, there were no differences in anxiety or in exercise levels or in fat intake before and five-to-six months after the test was taken.
More than 90 percent of participants, who tended to be well-educated, had no test-related distress.
And although participants expressed the desire to get relevant screening tests, most did not.
The scan tested for more than 20 health conditions including macular degeneration, heart attack, colon cancer and psoriasis. The risk for all could be modified.
"There's no evidence of improving lifestyle, which is sobering but nothing else has improved lifestyle, so maybe we shouldn't have been so surprised," Topol said.
"We saw a nice relationship between risk and the desire to get health screening but a lot of patients had not done the screening. But they had registered awareness," he added.
Navigenics Health Compass did not respond to a request from HealthDay for comment on the findings.
The study, which is funded by the National Institutes of Health and Scripps Institute, will be ongoing for 20 years, leaving time for some of those results to change.
"At least we've got the groundwork laid that people are going to do OK getting that information. They're not going to be depressed or anxious," Topol said. "We
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