Magazine article Science & Spirit

Do At-Home Tests Put People at Risk?

Magazine article Science & Spirit

Do At-Home Tests Put People at Risk?

Article excerpt

while celebrity pitch-men hawk prescription drugs during Super Bowl breaks, a new variety of direct-to-consumer medical advertising is quietly gaining ground. Over the past couple of years, laboratories have begun marketing genetic testing services directly to health-care consumers. Capitalizing on the widespread perception that DNA is the ultimate determinant of health and disease, more than 100 Web sites have begun advertising at-home genetic tests.

Type the word "thrombophilia" into Google, for instance, and one of the top-sponsored search returns is a link to DNA Direct, a company that offers a test and genetic counseling services to anyone worried about having a congenital predisposition to that blood coagulation disorder. "We only offer tests where knowing about your genes can make a huge difference," said DNA Direct marketing director Greg Kajfez. "For example, if a thirty-year-old woman tests positively for thrombophilia, she can take certain action to reduce her risk. For example, she could decide not to take birth control. Or, if she was older, she may decide not to take hormone replacement. We don't offer tests for things that are less actionable."

Other companies do, which worries critics because the nascent industry faces little in the way of regulatory oversight. Several vendors sell "full genetic profile" kits, which pair the test results with recommendations for anything from dietary supplements to skin-care products--both of which are unproven and cost extra. …

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