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Health Practices Unaffected by Commercial Genomic Profiling

Disease risk assessment using genomic profiling does not increase consumers' stress and anxiety

WEDNESDAY, Jan. 12 (HealthDay News) -- Direct-to-consumer genomewide profiling tests, marketed as a means of assessing the risk of various common diseases, have little psychological, behavioral, or clinical impact on subjects, according to a study published online Jan. 12 in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Cinnamon S. Bloss, Ph.D., of the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, Calif., and colleagues investigated 2,037 subjects who elected to buy the Navigenics Health Compass, a commercially available genomewide profiling test of uncertain clinical validity and utility. Using questionnaires, the researchers gauged anxiety symptoms, dietary fat intake, and exercise behavior, as well as test-related distress and the previous use of health-screening tests, approximately three to eight months after taking the test.

The study team found that, in the short term, there were no measurable changes in subject psychological health, diet, or exercise behavior, nor did subjects tend to increase their use of screening tests as a result of using the genomewide profiling. Although secondary analyses showed a positive correlation between test-related distress and the average estimated lifetime risk among all assessed conditions, 90.3 percent of subjects who completed follow-up had scores demonstrating no test-related distress.

"In a selected sample of subjects who completed follow-up after undergoing consumer genomewide testing, such testing did not result in any measurable short-term changes in psychological health, diet, or exercise behavior, or use of screening tests. Potential effects of this type of genetic testing on the population at large are not known," the authors write.

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