Sense on genetic screening from the USA

Great to see some straight talking common sense from the US. Just because you can have your genome dissected, doesn’t mean you should pay a few hundred pounds for your ‘genetic risk assessment’ as several UK and US websites currently offer. These tests may need FDA approval, says this piece from the New England Journal of Medicine (which since a medical student, has been my favourite journal, thanks to the thinness of it’s paper and smell of the ink (sorry, BMJ) )

As they say

“What should happen, for instance, when a 30-year-old man with no relevant signs, symptoms, or family history shows his doctor a genetic test result indicating that he has an elevated risk of prostate cancer? Should his prostate-specific antigen level be measured? An ultrasound obtained? A biopsy performed? What level of risk should trigger further testing? What are the liability risks of not pursuing a diagnostic evaluation? As the number of conditions for screening expands, so will the cost to our health care system and the risk of iatrogenic harm to patients. ”  The answer to the first five questions are ‘we don’t know’, incidentally.

For a long time, I’ve been feeling rather alone in talking about the negative impact of screening tests – it’s great to have company.

2 Responses to “Sense on genetic screening from the USA”

  1. Louise August 31, 2010 at 11:11 pm #

    The negative potential of genetic screening is huge.

    For the most part, I believe the general population has little understanding of the complexity of the genetic code and to what degree it impacts their health.

    Clearly, environmental issues have a great impact on our lives and susceptibilites. Our diet, job, exercise level will all affect the likelihood of a given clinical outcome.

    We have a responsibility for our own welfare and should not see (as the media would have us believe) our genetic code as an inescapable certainty.

  2. Parviz October 8, 2010 at 1:59 pm #

    I recently had a full health screening done in the UK. It included Virtual Colonoscopy (VC) and PSA Screening amongst many other tests. PSA results came back alarmingly raised.
    I questioned if the trauma of VC had caused transient rise in PSA. Initially the company maintained that it was not the case. Later they admitted that it had caused the elevated results and apologised to me. They state that in all the years of combined VC and PSA testing and hundreds of clients my case is the first and only case of elevated PSA, and as a result they have now changed their procedures. In other words everything is alright now. I feel that I may be the first person who challenged the result, but maybe others have suffered the same level of alarm and anxiety I experienced.
    I would like to get an external authority involved, so that an independent assessment is made if others have suffered the same alarm, anxiety and have gone through expensive follow up testing. Also I feel the excuse of we simply did not know maybe questionable for a company actively selling health screening as body MOT.
    Please let me know where I can write to for a full investigation of this case.