Experts Warn Not to Make Health Decisions Based on Genetic Tests

Not every direct-to-consumer genetic test offers health information. Some of them do, and the results can be confusing to people. Experts warn not to make health decisions based on the results of genetic testing.

Research was done by a team from the University of Southampton. That research as published in the British Medical Journal. Professor Anneke Lucassen, president of the British Society for Genetic Medicine and a consultant in clinical genetics at University Hospital Southampton led the research.

The geneticists said that the results of the genetic tests could be “wrongly reassuring”, or could lead to unnecessary worry. In other words, a result that does not show that you have the risk of developing a specific health issue could make you presume that you have nothing to be concerned about. But, that’s simply not accurate.

The BBC reported that the paper published in the British Medical Journal warns that genetic tests often prioritize “breadth over detail,” citing a 23andMe test that checks for a few variants of BCRA1 and BRCA2, that are linked to an increased risk of breast and ovarian cancer. But, there are actually thousands of genes (or gene variants) that could indicate an increased risk for those cancers. What seemed like a reassuring result could be misleading.

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, who chairs the Royal College of General Practitioners, says that some members have reported patients bringing their genetic testing results with them to see the doctor. The patients want the doctor to interpret those tests for them. While some genetic testing companies do provide customers with an explanation of their results, not all do.

Professor Stokes-Lampard said, “This is not a good use of our time or NHS resources and should be the direct responsibility of the companies that are being paid to perform the tests.”

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