DIY Gene Tests
This is an interesting study looking at the impact of DIY (do it yourself) gene tests. As you may know, DIY gene testing packs have become available, and there has been/is a lot of controversy and concern about their impact. As I understand it, the worries are that the materials will not be correctly used and the information may be less accurate or complete, that consumers won't have a good understanding of the meaning or implications of the results, and that a lot of anxiety will be stimulated. This study by Eric Topol, MD from The New England Journal of Medicine is the first to examine this topic. His results suggest that people were not made any more anxious by learning themselves about a positive result.
What do I think about this? My immediate reaction is quite mixed. I certainly am aware that there is not always a need to do something in the more institutionalized and expensive way. I also know that women who undergo BRCA testing at our hospital receive expert genetic counseling, teaching about the possible results and implications, assistance with sharing positive results with family, and referrals for other services (including emotional support) if needed.
Here is a quote about the study from MedPage and a link to read more:
DIY Gene Tests Not Cause of Anxiety
By Kristina Fiore, Staff Writer, MedPage Today January 12, 2011
Results of direct-to-consumer genetic tests may induce far less hand-wringing than previously speculated, researchers say.
Patients had no increases in anxiety after their results were revealed, nor did they make any changes in diet or lifestyle based on the findings, Eric Topol, MD, of Scripps Clinic in La Jolla, Calif., and colleagues reported online in the New England Journal of Medicine.
"These tests do not appear to induce high levels of anxiety in people, which is a concern that has been previously voiced by many scientists and policymakers," Topol said in an e-mail to MedPage Today and ABC News.
But the study was done among employees of health and technology companies -- a population with "high educational levels and possibly greater-than-average scientific acumen," the researchers pointed out. Thus, the results may not apply to a more general population who may not be able to put the results in the proper context.
"It is likely that some small fraction of participants were aware of the controversies surrounding these tests, including their uncertain clinical validity and utility," Topol said.
Consumer gene test skeptics have warned that results may induce anxiety and lead to greater use of unneeded and expensive screening procedures, while proponents say the information may encourage testers to make healthier lifestyle choices and comply with recommended screenings such as colonoscopies.