At-home genetic test kits

The Detroit News reports that companies are beginning to offer consumers genetic screening tests to indicate predisposition for various diseases including breast and lung cancer, blood clotting, and cystic fibrosis. The customer takes a swab from inside the cheek, mails it in, and views the test result on line. Tests cost a few hundred dollars.

I’m a proponent of consumer choice and access, but there are problems with these tests:

  • One reason the tests are being offered on a consumer pay model is that it doesn’t make sense financially for insurers to pay for population screening for most disorders
  • “Predisposition” is a loose term –the genetic mutations identified may account for only a small proportion of the risk. Many people with a genetic predisposition will never get the disease –but once they have the test result they will be forever worried
  • In many cases there’s not much a consumer can do to change the likelihood of disease onset
March 7, 2005

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