Geneticists seek ban on mail-order DNA testing kits

May 31st, 2011 - 7:34 pm ICT by IANS  

London, May 31 (IANS) Geneticists are pressing for a ban on mail-order DNA kits that claim to forecast your chances of developing chronic or life-threatening diseases.

The first independent research to look at the kits says the information they produce is of little meaningful benefit - and in some cases, plain wrong.

Another survey of geneticists from 28 European countries found that two-thirds wanted to ban the tests, saying people should not be left to interpret the results themselves without a doctor’s help.

The tests, which cost several hundred pounds, see customers send off DNA samples which are then analysed to calculate how an individual’s risk of developing various ailments compares with the average, according to the Daily Mail.

A study simulated data from 100,000 individuals and used formulas provided by genetic testing firms deCODEme, from Iceland, and 23andMe, from the US, to obtain the risk of developing eight common diseases, including prostate cancer and diabetes.

A substantial part of the population was rated as having an “increased risk” of each disease, even when the likelihood of developing them was not much higher than for “average” subjects.

Professor Cecile Janssens, of the Erasmus University Medical Centre in Rotterdam, Holland, who led the study, said in many cases the “difference in disease risk is too small to be of relevance”.

She added the tests only took genetic factors into account, ignoring other variables such as diet, environment and lifestyle.

Raising further doubts, she said in five out of eight diseases deCODEme calculated some people had risks higher than 100 percent.

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