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Concerns Raised About Drugstore Genetic Test

FDA Is Looking Into Claims About New Genetic Test Kit

Experts: Genetic Test Offers 'Information Without Knowledge' continued...

The bad news, Marion says, is that it's extremely difficult to interpret the information that comes back from genetic testing.

"It opens up a Pandora's box," Marion says. "For a lot of other things they are testing for, we are not at a point yet where we can understand the results in a way that will be helpful to most families."

Vance uses even stronger language.

"They are giving people information without knowledge," he says. "The question is not whether a person has a risk gene but how much risk is involved. The average risk gene for a common disease is probably one and a half times the normal risk. So if it takes 100 pounds of risk to get the disease, these may be 1-pound risks."

And as every expert who spoke to WebMD is quick to note, genetic risk is not destiny. There is robust interplay between a person's genes, a person's lifestyle, a person's environment, and a person's experience. Genes, particularly SNPs, are only part of this complex equation.

"A lot of people who have a genetic risk for a disease never get the disease," Vance says. "And a lot of people who get a disease never had that genetic risk."

Vance and Marion both strongly agree that genetic counseling should not be an add-on option to genetic testing. Genetic counseling, they say, is the whole point of genetic testing.

Who might need such counseling? Virtually everyone who gets genetic testing.

"With the number of susceptibility genes out there, everybody is going to find he or she is susceptible to one condition or another. Virtually 100% of the population is going to have a positive result," Marion says.

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