At-Home Genetic Tests Yield Bogus Results: Probe

A recent study shows that a small majority of parents want to pull money out of their wallets and light it on fire. Not literally. But lighting money on fire would at least save a trip to Walgreens.

In a poll of nearly 1,500 parents, 53 percent said they would be interested in at-home genetic tests for their kids. These parents said they’d like to know whether their children are at an increased, average or low-risk for developing certain cancers and other diseases so that they might work on preventing them. But here’s the problem: those at-home tests? Totally bogus results.

A recent federal probe into four of widely available test kits revealed inconsistent results. The General Accounting Office sent in various test swabs to each of the genetic test companies. One man’s swabbed cheek returned a high risk for developing prostate cancer from one company, a low risk from another company and average risk from two others. Another test swab, from a man who wears a pacemaker, came back as having a low risk for developing heart disease. Informative!

The GAO presented these another findings at a Congressional hearing called to look at the genetic testing industry. The hearings were called in anticipation of one of the companies, Pathway Genetics, said it would soon start marking its kits in retail pharmacies (though since then the Food and Drug Administration said all the companies need to get approval).

Of course, nobody wants inaccurate information about their own or their kids’ genetic predispositions. But would knowing your child carries the gene for breast cancer be helpful or cause a childhood of worry for you and the kid? If personalized genetic tests could produce trustworthy results, would you do it for yourself or your children? I think I’d personally rather not know. Then again, I was more than happy to undergo genetic testing when I was pregnant with my third kid.

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Photo: cpbn.org

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