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New Genetic Tests Will Assess Risk Of Multiple Conditions

Armen Hareyan's picture

Genetic tests to help people determine whether they have higher risksof developing a variety of conditions are becoming more widelyavailable on a direct-to-consumer basis, the Wall Street Journal reports. However, skepticism, cost and privacy issues might dissuade people from seeking out the tests.

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According to the Journal,"Health insurers aren't likely to cover the tests until studies provetheir value and link them to improved health," and "many people areworried that health insurance and even job opportunities could bejeopardized if evidence of genetic risk of disease became part of theirmedical record." There also is the "issue of how useful the answerswill be," as there is "no evidence ... people will act on suchinformation to lead healthier lives," the Journal reports.

Approximately1,400 genetic tests already are on the market, the majority of whichare designed to find single genes associated with rare conditions.Newer tests are being developed to assess multiple genetic indicators. Navigenicson Tuesday announced that its Health Compass test will be availableearly next year over the Internet for $2,500. The product includescounseling and one year of testing updates. Consumers will send in asaliva sample for testing, and then potential risks for more than 20conditions -- including diabetes, obesity, prostate cancer and glaucoma-- will be posted on a password-protected Web site. In addition, 23andme is planning to launch its own test directly to consumers by the end of the year.

Someexperts are concerned that results might spur consumers to seekadditional tests, which could be unnecessary, or that people will worryexcessively about their inability to affect their geneticpredispositions (Winslow, Wall Street Journal, 11/6).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. Youcan view the entire Kaiser DailyHealth Policy Report, search the archives, and sign up for email deliveryat kaisernetwork.org/email. The Kaiser Daily HealthPolicy Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The HenryJ. Kaiser Family Foundation.