6 in 10 Americans Interested in Genetic Testing, Survey Finds

6 in 10 Americans Interested in Genetic Testing, Survey Finds

6 in 10 Americans Interested in Genetic Testing, Survey Finds

But researchers wonder if everyone is adept at accurately interpreting test results

SOURCE: University of Michigan, news release, March 9, 2015

WEDNESDAY, March 11, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- A majority of Americans taking part in a new poll said they'd be interested in genetic testing to see if they or their children are at risk for serious illnesses.

A team at the University of Michigan's C.S. Mott Children's Hospital looked at data from a national online survey. The researchers found that 59 percent of respondents, including parents and adults without children, were interested in "whole genome sequencing," which maps a person's full complement of DNA.

Nearly 62 percent of parents said they would want genetic testing for themselves. And 58 percent of parents were interested in genetic testing for their children, according to the study published online recently in the journal Public Health Genomics.

Those with the highest levels of interest in genetic testing included mothers and parents whose youngest children had more than two health conditions, while people with conservative political views had low levels of interest, the study found.

Levels of interest were also higher among adults who were planning to have children within five years, compared with current parents. This may be because parents with healthy children may have their "minds at ease" about the genes they've already passed to their children, the research team suggested.

"As genome sequencing becomes faster and cheaper, we expect the technology to become used more frequently in clinics and the private market," study senior author Dr. Beth Tarini said in a university news release. "We wanted to know what kind of factors influenced patient demand for this test, especially among parents," she added.

"Particularly fascinating was that parents' interest for having predictive genetic testing done for themselves reflected their interest in testing their children, too -- it appears to be a global decision for the family," said Tarini, who is assistant professor of pediatrics at the hospital.

Still, ethical questions remain. While genetic tests can reveal the risk for certain diseases, there are also concerns about the accurate interpretation of test results and how useful they would actually be for parents, the researchers pointed out.

"It's a test that gives you a lot of data but the devil is in the details," Tarini said. "First, interpreting the data is challenging because we are not sure what all of the data means. Second, even if you can interpret the data then you may not know what to do with the interpretation. Perhaps you learn you have a slightly higher risk of getting prostate cancer or diabetes -- neither of which is for certain or in the near future. Now what?"

More information

The U.S. National Human Genome Research Institute has more about genetic testing.

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