Gene tests do not cause distress: U.S. researchers

Wed Jan 12, 2011 5:34pm EST
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By Julie Steenhuysen

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Most people who used a commercially available genetic testing kit made by Navigenics were not traumatized by their results, as some critics had feared, U.S. researchers said on Wednesday.

The results did not cause people to change their lifestyles through diet, exercise or other changes to reduce their risks either, said a team led by Dr. Eric Topol of the Scripps Translational Science Institute in San Diego, whose study appears in the New England Journal of Medicine.

"They did no harm and it's debatable about how much good they do," Topol said of the tests in a telephone interview.

The study is the first to look at the impact of these tests, and the findings address concerns that consumer genetic tests could distress people who learn they are at risk for diseases like Alzheimer's or diabetes.

In July, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said consumers may not know what to do with information from genetic tests taken without a doctor's guidance.

None of the tests sold to consumers were approved by the FDA, but the agency said last summer it was gearing up to regulate them. Companies that make the tests include Navigenics Inc, Pathway Genomics Corp, and 23andMe Inc, which is backed by Google Inc.

"These tests have been harshly criticized by the medical community and government agencies, but until now there were no data," Topol said in a statement.

His team studied 2,000 adults who took the Navigenics Health Compass, which looks for genes that raise the risk of more than 20 conditions such as diabetes, obesity, heart attack and some forms of cancer.   Continued...