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Parents Want Genetic Testing for Kids: Study
Date:4/18/2011

g for their children, although no children were actually tested in this research.

The parents most interested in the test for themselves made little distinction between the pros and cons of testing for themselves and their children, the study authors reported, generally favoring the information and believing it could lead to better health maintenance and disease prevention.

But McBride and other genetics experts question how useful such tests really are. Hailed as one of the best inventions of the 21st century -- and widely available to consumers online -- the tests do not always produce consistent results and are easy to misinterpret without professional guidance, experts said.

An undercover study of 15 direct-to-consumer genetic tests by the U.S. Government Accountability Office found "egregious examples of deceptive marketing, in addition to poor or non-existent advice from supposed consultation experts," according to a recent report in The Lancet.

Organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics have advised against genetic testing of children for adult-onset diseases when the information has not been shown to reduce deaths or disease complications through interventions begun in childhood.

"The big concern out there is these kids are going to show up at the pediatrician and say, 'Hey doc, what do I do?'" McBride said. "Parents see more perceived benefits than may be true."

Dr. Robert Saul, senior clinical geneticist and training program director at the Greenwood Genetic Center in South Carolina, said one worry is that a family might negatively change its lifestyle -- perhaps exercising less -- if they find out their child is likely not at risk for a certain condition, such as high blood pressure.

"The assumption is the tests are conclusive . . . and nothing could be further from the truth," said Saul, also incoming chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics' Committee on Genetics. "I thought it was a
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