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Six Questions Consumers Should Ask About Genetic Tests

WASHINGTON, Feb. 24 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- As genetic tests become more affordable and advanced, consumers have access to personalized medical information that can help them manage their health and make good choices for prevention and treatment. But not all genetic tests are created equal.

For consumers purchasing a genetic test that provides any type of health risk assessment or medical diagnosis, the non-profit American Clinical Laboratory Association and its educational campaign "Results for Life," suggests that consumers ask themselves the six questions below:

1. Is the test done in a medical lab certified under CLIA?

This is the law, called the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments, which requires medical laboratories to meet standards for quality, accuracy, safety and validity of the tests they perform.

2. Is a genetic counselor, physician or other knowledgeable health professional available to assist you in selecting tests and interpreting results?

Does your 0.5% chance of getting esophageal cancer at some point in your life, for example, mean anything, or is it irrelevant? A knowledgeable health care provider should be available to assist you in deciding which tests are appropriate and understanding the test results.

3. Do the claims seem hard to believe?

Genetic testing is a remarkable science -- but it isn't a guarantee that you will, for example, find the ideal mate or achieve perfect health. If the claim seems too good to be true, it probably is.

4. Are other products, such as nutritional supplements, being sold along with the test?

If they are, caution. That could be a sign that the company's profit -- not your health -- is the real concern. Genetic tests should provide information. They should be viewed with caution when they are an adjunct to marketing nutritional supplements or other products.

5. Are you willing to be "an informed" consumer -- that is, take the time to understand what genetic testing tells you?

Genetic testing includes a broad array of tests, and the science is advancing so fast that new tests seem to be developed daily. They will change the future of health care -- with better disease detection and personalized therapy. But you need to be informed about what they are, what they do, what they don't do, and what you need to know to make informed decisions. Just as you judge carefully in purchasing houses or cars or shampoo, you need to understand what genetic testing is and how to use it.

6. Does the provider of the service offer adequate assurances that your genetic information will be kept private and secure?

Depending on who is offering the service, the purpose for which the information is sought and the manner in which the provider conducts its business, State and Federal privacy and security laws may be applicable. You should be satisfied with the level of protection offered for your genetic information before requesting the service.

The American Clinical Laboratory Association is a non-profit group representing the nation's clinical reference laboratories. The group's educational campaign, Results for Life, reflects a collaboration of laboratory professionals, clinical labs, and lab test makers. It is focused on communicating the value of laboratory medicine. Visit

    Contact: Helen Pettay:; (910)795-1202.
    Ron Geigle:; (202)756-1413.

SOURCE American Clinical Laboratory Association
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