Inconclusive results from at-home genetic testing only increase consumers’ paranoia about developing heritable diseases such as Alzheimer’s, according to an article published in the Star Tribune.
Until recently, consumers could pay around $100 to have a company evaluate their chances of developing hundreds of diseases based on a saliva sample. However, last fall the FDA ordered test manufacturers to stop providing medical information while the FDA considers whether to regulate these tests.
Since the tests are often inconclusive, consumers are at risk of being lured into a false sense of security or receiving a false positive with devastating emotional effects.
With the exception of a rare form of early-onset Alzheimer’s that involves a genetic mutation, a person’s likelihood of developing the disease cannot be precisely determined by examining their genes. People with two copies of the E4 gene are 12 times more likely to develop Alzheimer’s; however, some people with a second E4 don’t develop the disease, and some people who do develop Alzheimer’s do not have a second copy.
Opponents of the tests note that even if you discover that you’re at an elevated risk for Alzheimer’s, there is little you can do to change that: The disease is not strongly linked to lifestyle.
In a research survey, an alarming 11% of responders said that getting bad news from a genetic test would lead them to consider suicide. The researcher suggested that if patients do choose to get tested, it should be under the supervision of a doctor who can recommend help in the case of an unfavorable outcome.
If you could easily find out whether your genes put you at risk of developing a progressive, fatal disease, would you want to know? How about if that disease can’t be prevented or cured? What if the test’s prediction would almost certainly be inconclusive and possibly misleading – potentially giving you a false sense of security or plunging you into despair over a false positive?