Study: Patients Can Handle Information about Their Genes

Concern that patients would be overwhelmed and traumatized by the information prompted New York to ban the direct sale of genetic tests to consumers. Not to worry:

“We saw no evidence of anxiety or distress induced by the tests,” says Dr. Eric Topol, the senior author of a report published last week in The New England Journal of Medicine.

In fact, the researchers were surprised to see how little effect it had. While about a quarter of the people discussed the results with their personal physicians, they generally did not change their diets or their exercise habits even when they’d been told these steps might lower some of their risks.

Comments (7)

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  1. Mark says:

    Anyone surprised at this result? I’m not.

  2. Devon Herrick says:

    I like the idea of being able to learn more about my genetic risk factors. However, I am not surprised that people generally aren’t motivated by vague estimates of elevated risk. Maybe someone might have more motivation if they had a parent who died prematurely from heart disease or a stroke. People in general tend to discount the future (benefits and costs) at too high a discount rate.

  3. Joe Barnett says:

    The Platonic ideal of rule by experts meets reality once again!

  4. Liz says:

    Only a few decades ago, It was not uncommon for doctors to conspire with family members of terminally ill patients to hide the prognosis from the dying patient. This would supposedly “protect” the poor soul from being hurt by the news. I think most of us are now grown up enough to handle genetic news.

  5. Virginia says:

    What ever happened to the idea of giving people information and letting them decide how to live their lives?

  6. Brian Williams. says:

    I just don’t want Julian Assange to know about my genes.

  7. Kent Lyon says:

    Remember, Dr. Topol is the former chief physician at the Cleveland Clinic, a cardiologist, who left the Cleveland Clinic after it was revealed that he had testified in the Vioxx litigation trials against Vioxx while being on the payroll of a hedge fund that was trying to drive down Merck stock. He’s a disgrace to the medical profession, a hack, who is now hawking commercial genetic testing services. The New England Journal of Medicine has become, in the colorful words of one of the most reknowned cardiovascular, lipid and diabetes researches in the world, Dr. Steve Hafner, “just like a British tabloid minus the picture of the bare-chested woman on page 3.” The New England Journal just doesn’t publish reliable information on politically hot topics, and directly marketed genetic testing is such a topic. Topol should not be taken seriously by any one, and the New England Journal puts itself in the same category by publishing such drivel. Topol has a vested commercial interest in the outcome he reports. This is not medical science. This is marketing in the guise of objective science. The NEJM should be ashamed of itself, but the editors are beyond shame.