17 January 2011

Gene analysis: passed and forgot

People don't need the results of genetic testing
CNews R&D based on the materials of R&D Magazine:
Study: Consumers not fazed by DNA health results

As the results of the first major study in this area have shown, people who paid for DNA analysis do not attach much importance to the results obtained and do not make adjustments to either the diet or lifestyle.

A few years ago, commercial companies appeared offering everyone to analyze their DNA for a fee to identify the risks of developing a number of serious diseases. To pass such testing, it is enough only to order a special container via the Internet, collect a saliva sample into it and send it to the specified address.

Critics argue that to date, DNA analysis provides far from complete information about possible changes in health, so the results of such an analysis can put a person into a state of unreasonable anxiety.

In a study (Bloss et al., Effect of Direct-to-Consumer Genomewide Profiling to Assess Disease Risk / NEJM, January 12, 2011), scientists at the Scripps Research Institute analyzed the behavior of approximately 2,000 people approximately 5 months after they received the results of genetic testing. (The correctness of the results was not evaluated in the study.) The results included risk levels for 22 diseases, including Alzheimer's disease, diabetes, glaucoma, obesity, as well as lung, breast and prostate cancer.

To the disappointment and simultaneous relief of the researchers, it turned out that the participants did not feel much concern about the test results. The reason for the relief was that, contrary to the opinion of a number of experts, people quite successfully cope with the information coming to them and do not worry about the results.

However, at the same time, obtaining test results does not lead to a change in the diet towards a decrease in the amount of fatty foods, nor to an increase in physical activity. These measures are the most common recommendations for the prevention of a number of diseases.

Moreover, it turned out that people, as a rule, do not even undergo the medical examinations recommended to them by the results of testing. The exception is a weak trend in the growth of referrals to doctors for examinations for the detection of glaucoma and prostate cancer.

Thus, it turned out that the results of genetic testing do not lead to a panic pilgrimage of anxious and suspicious people with a moderate risk of developing diseases to doctors' offices, but also are not a sufficiently strong incentive to take appropriate preventive measures, usually consisting in lifestyle changes.

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