Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Assumptions, not data, dictate opinions about predictive genetic testing in youth

Date:
August 4, 2011
Source:
University of Michigan Health System
Summary:
Predictive genetic testing may be able to identify children's risk for developing common, treatable, and possibly preventable disorders. Despite this, critics of predictive genetic testing say test results may be psychologically harmful to children. However, these claims are rooted in assumption, not evidence, says one researcher.

Predictive genetic testing may be able to identify children's risk for developing common, treatable, and possibly preventable disorders.

Using this knowledge, doctors may be able to help at-risk children learn to manage their conditions by making healthy lifestyle changes. Test results may also be the motivation children need to take their health seriously as they grow older.

But critics of predictive genetic testing say test results may be psychologically harmful to children. However, these claims are rooted in assumption, not evidence, says U-M researcher Beth A. Tarini, M.D., M.S., in a commentary available online August 5 ahead of print the Journal of Pediatric Psychology.

Advocates challenge that testing during childhood could lead to early health interventions that might improve health.

Data supporting the claims of either side are sparse but fears about the negative effects of testing could hinder research that is needed to determine the exact benefits and harms resulting from sharing test results with children and parents, says Tarini, a faculty member with the Child Health Evaluation and Research (CHEAR) Unit at the University of Michigan and the commentary's lead author.

Conducting this much-needed research may be challenging, the study suggests, because existing professional guidelines warn that genetic testing has the potential to cause psychological and behavioral harm to children, who may be emotionally altered by knowing their results. However, these guidelines refer to the clinical use of genetic testing to diagnose severe, often untreatable disease. The guidelines do not address carefully controlled research on the effects of genetic testing which can provide a child's future risk of developing a common treatable disease, like diabetes. This type of testing is often referred to as predictive genetic testing.

Tarini worries that these guidelines will hamper research that could provide real answers to replace speculation.

"It's a classic catch-22," she says. "If people use these clinical guidelines as a means of discouraging research, then we will never know the truth and we will continue to be guided by speculation."

Genetic testing has the potential to identify individual's inherited vulnerabilities to diseases, some of which may be preventable. Because of these benefits, authors of the commentary suggest that predictive testing is likely to become part of pediatric medicine in the future. However, they worry that without research to guide physicians on the proper use of testing, it may be used and interpreted inappropriately.

There is concern that a child receiving information about the results of their testing may create unnecessary and regrettable psychological distress, alter their self-image or lead to health behaviors that will negatively impact their health, like taking unproven treatments, authors explain.

Children may also adopt a passive approach to their health, concluding that there is nothing that can be done about their condition, as it's "in their genes."

In response to the claim that sharing test results may be psychologically damaging to children, the commentary authors cited a review of 17 articles focusing on the impact of genetic testing. Most found no significant difference between those who tested positive and those who tested negative in the areas of depression, anxiety, general psychological well-being, dispositional optimism and behavioral problems.

Because existing concerns remain speculative, Tarini suggests that continued research is necessary to determine if these proposed effects are rooted in fact or common assumption.

"A guiding principle of pediatric medicine is offering children the opportunity to be proactive in reducing their chance of developing a disease, a process genetic testing may contribute towards," suggests Tarini.

For example, overweight children could be tested to see if they have an elevated risk of developing diabetes, a factor that would greatly affect their continued care.

Results may also be used to create targeted prevention programs for unhealthy behaviors. Anti-smoking campaigns, for example, can be designed to focus on children with ADHD, who have an elevated risk of smoking initiation.

Based on their background and training in child development, pediatric psychologists should play an important role in research, the authors note.

"Pediatric psychologists are uniquely positioned to contribute to research in this area because of their understanding of how social, behavioral and developmental factors influence a child's health."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Michigan Health System. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. B. A. Tarini, K. P. Tercyak, B. S. Wilfond. Commentary: Children and Predictive Genomic Testing: Disease Prevention, Research Protection, and Our Future. Journal of Pediatric Psychology, 2011; DOI: 10.1093/jpepsy/jsr040

Cite This Page:

University of Michigan Health System. "Assumptions, not data, dictate opinions about predictive genetic testing in youth." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 4 August 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/08/110804124646.htm>.
University of Michigan Health System. (2011, August 4). Assumptions, not data, dictate opinions about predictive genetic testing in youth. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 18, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/08/110804124646.htm
University of Michigan Health System. "Assumptions, not data, dictate opinions about predictive genetic testing in youth." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/08/110804124646.htm (accessed April 18, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Friday, April 18, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Scientists Create Stem Cells From Adult Skin Cells

Scientists Create Stem Cells From Adult Skin Cells

Newsy (Apr. 17, 2014) The breakthrough could mean a cure for some serious diseases and even the possibility of human cloning, but it's all still a way off. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Obama: 8 Million Healthcare Signups

Obama: 8 Million Healthcare Signups

AP (Apr. 17, 2014) President Barack Obama gave a briefing Thursday announcing 8 million people have signed up under the Affordable Care Act. He blasted continued Republican efforts to repeal the law. (April 17) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Is Apathy A Sign Of A Shrinking Brain?

Is Apathy A Sign Of A Shrinking Brain?

Newsy (Apr. 17, 2014) A recent study links apathetic feelings to a smaller brain. Researchers say the results indicate a need for apathy screening for at-risk seniors. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Could Even Casual Marijuana Use Alter Your Brain?

Could Even Casual Marijuana Use Alter Your Brain?

Newsy (Apr. 16, 2014) A new study conducted by researchers at Northwestern and Harvard suggests even casual marijuana use can alter your brain. Video provided by Newsy
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:
from the past week

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