Genetic tests aimed at
gauging a person's risk for an array of health issues are now readily
available, but a new survey finds that most people prefer the help of a
physician in interpreting the results.
percentages require interpretation and context," study co-author Rene
Almeling, a sociologist at Yale University, said in a university news release.
Almeling said experts have
long had "concerns about companies that offer genetic tests directly to
consumers. What we did that was new was to ask members of the public whether
they thought this was a good idea."
The study involved 2 100
people who were asked about direct-to-consumer genetic tests, among other
Almeling and co-author
Shana Kushner Gadarian, of Syracuse University, found that the majority of
Americans support federal spending on genetic research. They also found broad
support for laws that prevent discrimination based on the results of a genetic
Doctors should explain results
The research also found
that 65% of Americans agree that doctors should explain genetic test results to
That's in line with current
recommendations from the American Medical Association and the American College
of Medical Genetics, which both recommend that people undergo genetic testing
under the guidance of their doctor. Physicians can take into account factors
such as family history and environment when interpreting gene test results,
according to these groups.
Given the overwhelming
support for the involvement of doctors in interpreting the results of genetic
testing, the researchers said their findings may prompt lawmakers to make
doctor-patient consultations a requirement in the future.
"In the ongoing
debates over policy issues in genetics, it's important to keep in mind the
views of those most affected by such debates," Almeling said. "These
results are useful for scientists designing studies, clinicians working with
patients, federal agencies setting budget priorities and legislators designing
The findings were published
online recently in the journal Genetics in Medicine.
The US National Institutes
of Health provides more information on genetic