Scientist cautions against genetic testing

June 1st, 2008 - 3:23 pm ICT by admin  

Washington, June 1 (IANS) A scientist has warned compatriots against rushing into genetic testing in the hope of making revolutionary improvements. “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, of University of North Carolina.

“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.

“The sequencing of the human genome revealed that in relative terms, humans are 99.9 percent the same. 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,” said Evans.

Some of these differences are medically relevant in that they influence disease predisposition and response to drugs.

And the differences are of interest in non-medical ways, specifically when they address ancestry, behaviour 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.

Evans will make a presentation about how personal genomics will affect human lives at a panel discussion titled “Your Biological Biography” at the World Science Festival in New York City.

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