A study shows that, if given the opportunity, most parents would get a genetic test done on their child. It’s an interesting insight into the perception many parents have of those direct to consumer genetic testing kits. These kinds of kits have already raised concerns with lawmakers and regulators in the United States.
If you could get a genetic test that would analyze your child’s DNA, would you use it? I don’t mean the kind of genetic testing that your doctor would prescribe or order. I am referring to the over the counter genetic test kits that consumers can purchase online, without the involvement of a doctor.
You buy the test, and it is shipped out to you. These tests require a person to give a small sample of their DNA (often from saliva or cheek cells), which will be shipped back to the company that makes the DNA kit. They will analyze the DNA, and tell you what diseases and disorders you are at risk for. There are several companies that make these kinds of home DNA kits, including Decode Genetics (DeCodeME), which is based in Iceland, 23andME, which Google has invested in, and Navigenics, which is a private company.
Regulators have questions about the reliability of these tests. They also have concerns that parents will not understand the limitations of these tests. There is concern that parents will have their child’s DNA tested and will be expecting the test to give their child a “clean bill of health”. What happens if the results come back indicating that a child is at risk for a disease? These tests do not offer any kind of follow up care from doctors. There is also the possibility that a parent will not understand the results of the DNA test, because these can be presented in a confusing manner.
A survey was done in order to find out the attitudes that parents had regarding genetic testing. The researchers offered 219 parents a genetic test that looked for eight of the most common health conditions. These included colon cancer, skin cancer, lung cancer, heart disease, high cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes. Parents were asked about their understanding of the risks and benefits of having the test done on their child. They were also asked if they were interested in having the test done on their child.
The survey revealed that there was significant interest from parents to have this kind of genetic test done on their child. When the parents were told that there isn’t any proof that these types of genetic tests had any real use, the parents remained interested in having the test done on their child anyway. The parent who showed the most interest in having genetic testing done on their child were the ones who truly believed that their child’s results would be good. This is worrying to regulators, because most people will get results that show that they are at an elevated risk for something.
Image by EricaJoy on Flickr