Is knowledge power, or is it confusion? That's the question being asked a lot these days with the availability of direct-to-consumer genetic testing. Add the idea of gene tests for children into the mix, and you have some more conflict--between parents who want more information and some genetics experts who believe at-home tests offer incomplete, misleading results that would only confuse parent and child.
Researchers at Georgetown University Medical Center took a snapshot of parents' attitudes toward genetic testing for their children in a study published in the journal Pediatrics. First, they tested 219 parents for genetic variants linked to heart heart disease, osteoporosis, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, Type 2 diabetes and colon, skin and lung cancer.
They were then asked whether they would be in favor of having their children tested for the same diseases. On average, more were willing than not. And that's where the opinions are flying. Helen Wallace of Genewatch UK responded in a definite way to the BBC, saying, "Children should not be tested for risk of adult-onset conditions, full stop. They should be allowed to decide for themselves, with medical advice, when they are grown up."
Still, Kenneth Tercyak, the study's lead author, told the Wall Street Journal's Health Blog that even if the information is not complete, having it could still have a beneficial effect on parent and child by serving as a "teachable moment" on healthy eating habits and exercise. He added that whether genetic information can provide such a moment is still an open question.