January 13, 2011

Genetic Test-Takers Aren’t Spooked By Results

New research shows that people who participate in direct to consumer DNA testing aren't likely to panic over the results, but are likely to undergo corresponding medical exams in the event that the results claim they are at risk for certain diseases.

Those findings are the result of the Scripps Genomic Health Initiative (SGHI), a Scripps Health / Scripps Translational Science Institute (STSI) study that polled more than 2,000 personal genetic test users and found "no evidence that the screenings induced psychological anxiety," STSI reported in a press release dated January 11.

Furthermore, the researchers discovered that a "significant proportion" of those who were found to be at risk for certain medical conditions "expressed strong intent to undergo the corresponding health screening test." The full results of the STSI study were published online at the New England Journal of Medicine website Wednesday.

Researchers hope that the results of the study will ease some of the criticism and controversy surrounding the tests, which require customers to submit saliva samples for analysis and then deliver a risk report for ailments such as diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, and cancers. Opponents question the accuracy of the testing method, as well as for the lack of specific information they provide.

"These tests have been harshly criticized by the medical community and government agencies, but until now there were no data," Dr. Eric Topol, director of STSI and principal investigator of the study, said in a statement Tuesday. "Early detection is a critical factor in preventing most diseases, yet a lot of us don't get our health screenings as recommended."

"A major concern raised regarding these tests is the possibility they will lead to high levels of anxiety in consumers who receive estimates of high genetic risk"¦ but our data suggest this is not the case," added Cinnamon Bloss, lead author of the paper and a clinical psychologist with STSI.


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