ROCHESTER, Minn. -- Among the latest health care trends seeking to advance "individualized medicine" are private companies marketing genetic testing directly to patients. The mail-in kits, with price tags as high as $2,500, use a saliva specimen to identify small variations in the human genome (called "single nucleotide polymorphisms" or "SNPs") associated with heightened risk for diseases such as diabetes and prostate cancer. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (http://www.
VIDEO ALERT: Additional audio and video resources from Dr. Clayton Cowl are available here (http://www.
In the October issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings, (http://www.
"We looked for evidence of increased concern about disease based solely on genetic risk, and then whether the concern resulted in changes in health habits," says co-author Clayton Cowl, M.D., (http://www.
The randomized study found patients' worry tended to be modestly elevated one week after the genetic testing, and that people worried more about unfamiliar diseases, for instance the thyroid condition Graves' disease (http://www.
The tests may be useful if they prompt patients to make health-conscious changes, such as losing weight or being vigilant about cancer screening. Some doctors are concerned, however, that patients who learn they have less-than-average genetic risk for a disease might skip steps to promote good health, notes Dr. Cowl. The current study assessed only the emotional effects of the tests. "The ability to determine the actual utility of these tests, that is, whether a calculation of genetic risk accurately predicts disease, is still several years away," he says.
A peer-reviewed journal, Mayo Clinic Proceedings publishes original articles and reviews dealing with clinical and laboratory medicine, clinical research, basic science research and clinical epidemiology. Mayo Clinic Proceedings is published monthly by Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research as part of its commitment to the medical education of physicians. The journal has been published for more than 80 years and has a circulation of 130,000 nationally and internationally. Articles are available online at http://www.
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