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

can't expect it to be a way to get people to take better care of themselves."

He and the other researchers noted the study also had a number of limitations, including the lack of a control group, its lack of representation of the population in general, and a large percentage of people (44 percent) who failed to complete the study -- a fact that researchers noted could possibly indicate that some drop-outs were psychologically distressed by the genetic testing results.

Other experts also stressed that the findings do not absolve direct-to-consumer genetic testing kits of the possibility for harm.

The study did not address the possibility of "false reassurance," pointed out Korf, who is also chair of genetics at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

"There is some concern that somebody is going to learn they're at somewhat reduced risk for, let's say type 2 diabetes, and decide because of that they don't need to watch their diet any more," he said. "The [test] may not give you the whole story and may not even be true for [that patient]."

"We've felt pretty strongly that, for the most part, this type of consumer genomic profiling is not ready for prime time, not because of anxiety but because tests have not been validated [so that] we know they are giving correct information," Korf added. "You have to know what you can and can't learn from this and what kinds of things you can do."

More information

The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more on genetic testing.

SOURCES: Eric Topol, M.D., director, Scripps Translational Science Institute, La Jolla, Calif.; Bruce R. Korf, M.D., Ph.D., president, American College of Medical Genetics, and chair, genetics, University of Alabama at Birmingham; Jan. 13, 2011, New England Journal of Medicine


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