Genetic Tests Marketed to Consumers Can Be Dangerously Misleading

FRIDAY, July 30 (HealthDay News) — The increasing availability of direct-to-consumer genetic screening tests in the United States increases the risk that consumers will order inappropriate tests or misinterpret the results, warns the National Society of Genetic Counselors.

In the absence of federal regulations governing genetic testing, consumers should get the advice of a genetic counselor or clinical geneticist before they have a genetic screening test, the group advises.

“Genetic tests can reveal life-changing information, both positive and negative, but misinterpreting test results can be dangerous,” Elizabeth Kearney, president of the NSGC, said in a society news release.

“The most important first step for consumers to understand when considering genetic testing is what can be learned from the test, and the impact the results could have on their lives and families,” she said. “Genetic testing should only be done through guidance of a genetic counselor or health care provider whose role is to protect the consumer, and assure they have appropriate testing and an accurate understanding of the results.”

The NSGC cautions that people who undergo genetic screening tests without the advice of a genetic counselor may:

  • Receive a series of test results but won’t get answers to their questions.
  • Get test results that cause alarm but won’t have anyone to talk to about their concerns.
  • Not know what action to take based on test results or may pay for information they already know.

The group also notes that genetic counselors should have specialized training in medical genetics and a master’s degree in their field.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about genetic testing.