April 19, 2011
Parents Support Genetic Testing Of Their Kids

Parents find the idea of genetically testing their kids to be appealing.

Washington, D.C. Parents offered genetic testing to predict their risks of common, adult-onset health conditions say they would also test their children. That is the finding of a new study published in the May issue of Pediatrics (published online April 18). The study authors note these and other findings should put pediatricians on alert that parents may chose predictive genetic tests for themselves and for their children, and seek guidance from doctors about what to do with the information.

The tone of the press release is one of concern that parents will go and get their kids tested without professional supervision. Who knows what they might think and do with the information? Parents can already get their children genetically tested just like they can get themselves tested - all without medical supervision.

Personal genetic tests are available directly to consumers at drug stores and over the Internet. They are controversial, and generally marketed to adults for their own use. However, it might be only a matter of time before parents become the focus of advertising campaigns targeting their children for testing, says Kenneth P. Tercyak, PhD, associate professor of oncology and pediatrics at Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, a part of Georgetown University Medical Center.

"The findings of our study should remind clinicians and policy-makers to consider children when regulating genetic tests," says Tercyak, the study's lead author. "These tests usually don't offer a clean bill of health and can be hard to interpret even in the best scenario. They identify incremental risks for many common diseases. Most people carry some risk based on a combination of their family history, genetics, and lifestyle. A child's unexpected test results could trigger negative reactions among parents and children, and lead to conversations at the pediatrician's office that providers aren't prepared to have."

My view: Regulators should find something else to do with their time instead of trying to prevent people from getting their own or the childrens' DNA tested.

People who were interested in their own genetic sequences were also most interested in the genetic sequences of their children. The parents see value in getting more information. Since I generally see more information as better the reasoning of the parents makes sense to me.

Tercyak says the group of parents that were most interested in the test for themselves were interested in having their child tested too. In fact, parents made little distinction between the pros and cons of testing for themselves and for their children -- generally favoring the information, and believing it could lead to improved health maintenance, disease prevention, and other personal benefits during childhood and later on in the child's life.

Genetic tests are going to become more detailed and the number of insights we'll be able to get from our genetic tests will rise drastically in the next 10 years. The cost of genetic testing has fallen so fast that scientists are now much better positioned to tease out the functional significance of large numbers of locations in the genome where we differ from each other. I say let the information flow directly to us.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2011 April 19 12:44 AM  Policy Medical

Tj Green said at April 19, 2011 2:54 PM:

Genes interact with their environment,it is nature via nurture. With this knowledge of our individual genomes we can avoid these destructive interactions.

PacRim Jim said at April 19, 2011 5:44 PM:

Better to avoid the avoidable decades in advance.
Although remediation of many conditions would probably be available before then, extrapolating at the current rate of acceleration.

Leroy Washington said at April 20, 2011 11:08 AM:

Your property, your labor, your time, your body, and the thoughts you are allowed to think belong to the aristocracy. Get used to it.

Americana said at April 20, 2011 11:14 AM:

This could be useful, but more likely will just fill parents with more worry about things that may never happen. But regardless, it is not the place for federal regulators to get involved.

William Dix said at April 21, 2011 12:02 PM:

I agree with you on Genetic testing. It should be openly available for anybody to use. Trying to restrict the acces to it strikes me as silly and trying to control access in the misguided belief that people are incapable of making their own decisions without guidance.

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