Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Medical Geneticists Cautions Against Rushing Into Genetic Testing

Date:
June 3, 2008
Source:
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Summary:
Just because scientific advances now allow individuals to learn their genetic make-up doesn't mean they should rush into genetic testing in hopes of making revolutionary improvements to their health, cautions a geneticist and practicing physician.

Just because scientific advances now allow individuals to learn their genetic make-up doesn't mean they should rush into genetic testing in hopes of making revolutionary improvements to their health, cautions a geneticist and practicing physician at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Related Articles


"From a basic science perspective, the advances being made in genomics are important discoveries, but it's unrealistic for individuals to believe those advances can yield meaningful information that will improve their health," said James P. Evans, M.D., Ph.D., professor of genetics and medicine in the UNC School of Medicine. "And even saying 'It's not there yet' is too optimistic. It's going to be a long time before the potential is realized."

Evans, who is also the director of the cancer and adult genetics clinics and the Bryson Program in Human Genetics in UNC's medical genetics department, will talk about how personal genomics will affect human lives at a panel discussion titled "Your Biological Biography" at the World Science Festival being held in New York City, May 28 to June 1.

"The sequencing of the human genome revealed that in relative terms, humans are 99.9 percent the same," Evans said. "But in absolute terms, we are very different. For example, a one-thousandth of a difference in their respective DNA profiles translates into more than 3 million differences between any two unrelated individuals."

Some of these differences are medically relevant, in that they influence disease predisposition and response to drugs, areas Evans studies in his research. And the differences are of interest in non-medical ways, specifically when they address ancestry, behavior traits and the innate curiosity humans have about their genes.

Sequencing of the human genome, which was completed in 2003, also gave rise to commercial entities offering direct-to-consumer genetic testing for a fee, usually between $1,000 and $3,000. Evans worries that individuals may seek such testing with the false hope that they will get meaningful results regarding their risks for disease and actionable medical advice about how to decrease their risks.

"Much of the current excitement about genetics and medical genomics is predicated on the idea that knowing our genomes better will improve our health," Evans said. "In fact, for the vast majority of such risk assessments, the increased risk of an individual developing the disease in question is modest -- one- to two-fold over baseline. And in few such conditions are there specific effective interventions to diminish the risk. Further, there is little evidence that having the specific genetic information would actually induce a change in lifestyle."

Society has tended to place an almost mystical association on genetic information, Evans said, adding that what to do with this new knowledge and how to interpret the information presents many unanswered challenges.

"Most physicians, by their own admission, are not geneticists and won't know what to do with the information," said Evans, who uses family history and genetic testing to evaluate and counsel patients about their risk for cancer. "Many who do understand the technology and how it is generated don't know what to do with it. So there's huge potential for patient harm -- either for patients to be lulled into a false sense of security by this new genomic information or, in the opposite extreme, to have unnecessarily increased anxiety."

And Evans said he can see even more extreme measures "where interventions are implemented -- for example, a total body scan -- that put patients on a road to invasive tests that they are better off not getting."

Evans believes these challenges say something about how humans value information, but then fail to scrutinize what it really means. "It's hard for me to over-estimate the beauty and utter significance of sequencing the human genome and other animal genomes," Evans said. "The technology is very promising for all of us, but there is a big gap between having that knowledge and applying it for the betterment of human health."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. "Medical Geneticists Cautions Against Rushing Into Genetic Testing." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 3 June 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/05/080531185843.htm>.
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. (2008, June 3). Medical Geneticists Cautions Against Rushing Into Genetic Testing. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 28, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/05/080531185843.htm
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. "Medical Geneticists Cautions Against Rushing Into Genetic Testing." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/05/080531185843.htm (accessed November 28, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Health & Medicine News

Friday, November 28, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Rural India's Low-Cost Sanitary Pad Revolution

Rural India's Low-Cost Sanitary Pad Revolution

AFP (Nov. 28, 2014) — One man hopes his invention -– a machine that produces cheap sanitary pads –- will help empower Indian women. Duration: 01:51 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Research on Bats Could Help Develop Drugs Against Ebola

Research on Bats Could Help Develop Drugs Against Ebola

AFP (Nov. 28, 2014) — In Africa's only biosafety level 4 laboratory, scientists have been carrying out experiments on bats to understand how virus like Ebola are being transmitted, and how some of them resist to it. Duration: 01:18 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
WHO Says Male Ebola Survivors Should Abstain From Sex

WHO Says Male Ebola Survivors Should Abstain From Sex

Newsy (Nov. 28, 2014) — WHO cites four studies that say Ebola can still be detected in semen up to 82 days after the onset of symptoms. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ebola Leaves Orphans Alone in Sierra Leone

Ebola Leaves Orphans Alone in Sierra Leone

AFP (Nov. 27, 2014) — The Ebola epidemic sweeping Sierra Leone is having a profound effect on the country's children, many of whom have been left without any family members to support them. Duration: 01:02 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins