Skip to content

Health & Parenting

Font Size

Parents Favor Gene Tests for Their Children, Study Finds

Tests Inform Parents of Children's Risk for Certain Diseases
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

April 18, 2011 -- Tests that reveal children’s genetic risks for common diseases may soon become a popular choice among parents, even though the usefulness of the tests remains in question, according to a new study in the journal Pediatrics.

The increasingly popular tests are often marketed as a means to motivate people to make lifestyle changes to prevent the onset of diseases for which the tests show they are at risk. But there’s no evidence to back such claims. The tests are available over the counter and on the Internet.

“This is a new frontier for health care providers and for families,” says study author Kenneth P. Tercyak, PhD, associate professor of oncology and pediatrics at Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, a part of Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington, D.C. “It’s an open question on how they will be incorporated into a primary care setting.”

But as the popularity and proliferation of the tests continue to grow, the study authors predict more pediatricians will be called upon to interpret the results of such tests, informing parents of their child’s risks for diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and different types of cancer. That new role could be problematic.

“This is not something that most pediatricians are trained for, and, frankly, it could be a huge problem,” says Marshall L. Summar, MD, chief of genetics and metabolism at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C. “We’re trying to figure out how to gear up.”

Genetic Testing: How Useful?

Tercyak and his team of researchers surveyed 219 parents who were participants in a project funded by the NIH’s National Human Genome Initiative. In addition to being offered the opportunity to be tested for their own genetic risk for common diseases, parents were asked whether they would be interested in having their child tested. They were also asked how well they understood the risks and benefits of such testing.

The researchers found that parents who opted to take the tests themselves were more likely to be willing to have their children tested, especially if they anticipated a positive outcome.

Today on WebMD

Girl holding up card with BMI written
Is your child at a healthy weight?
toddler climbing
What happens in your child’s second year.
father and son with laundry basket
Get your kids to help around the house.
boy frowning at brocolli
Tips for dealing with mealtime mayhem
mother and daughter talking
child brushing his teeth
Sipping hot tea
Young woman holding lip at dentists office
Which Vaccines Do Adults Need
rl with friends
tissue box
Child with adhd