Few Worries About Genetic Testing

A common refrain for critics of direct to consumer genetic testing is that the tests could cause unnecessary worry.

Those critics believe that for some tests the results shouldn’t go directly to a consumer and instead be delivered by a doctor or genetic counselor. We believe that a person shouldn’t have to go through someone else to access their own genetic information, if they want it.
At a conference earlier this month in Boston, social scientist Cinnamon Bloss, Ph.D. talked specifically about whether these tests induce fear.

Several studies indicate they don’t.

“A major concern raised regarding these tests is the possibility they will lead to high levels of anxiety in consumers who receive estimates of high genetic risk,” said Bloss, last year after one of those studies was published. “But our data suggest this is not the case.”

Bloss, from the Scripps Translational Science Institute, spoke at the Fourth Annual Consumer Genetics Conference about studies the institute did that showed that few consumers reported heightened anxiety from the tests. While not many people in the Scripps’ study said the tests resulted in a change in their diet or exercise, about a third of those tested shared their information with a doctor within a year and a majority said they found the information useful.

Earlier this month we gave a much-warranted nod to Holly Dunsworth, who wrote about the tendency in some coverage of genetics to play on people’s fear instead of illuminate issues.
There have been several studies into this very issue, and, so far, all have agreed that people can handle the truth about their genetics. They also want to know.

Fear, or more accurately the potential anxiety surrounding the results of a genetics test, is an issue that can actually be studied. The studies done so far agree that genetic testing doesn’t induce high levels of fear and anxiety in those who choose to get tested.