With regard to tests offered over the Internet, there is some oversight of these tests but it is generally agreed that the current regulations are insufficient. As for genetic counseling, some of the Internet companies offer it, while others do not. In the case of the study described last night, a good deal of effort is being extended to make sure that participants understand the meaning of their test results. -- Colleen McBride
QUESTION: Cancer has taken close family members on both sides. Are there any tests I should get to screen myself?
ANSWER: There are a number of effective screening tests for colon cancer, breast cancer and cervical cancer. Indeed these tests have far more evidence to support their benefits for health than any of the genetic tests that are currently available. -- Colleen McBride
QUESTION: What do you think is the benefit of testing and revealing to individuals their currently incurable genetic dispositions? How are you prepared to address the physiological as well as psychological ramifications of these scientific facts? -- Michelle, New York, N.Y.
ANSWER: The test you learned about last night only includes health conditions for which individuals can take actions to prevent their occurrence.
Ultimately, where tests are available for other incurable health conditions, current thinking is that it should be up to the individual to decide whether this information has any personal benefit. Assisting individuals in deciding if such testing is appropriate should include genetic counseling and support. -- Colleen McBride
QUESTION: Can a blood test be used to detect cardiovascular disease? I don't mean HDL/LDL cholesterol as my husband Jim's numbers were pretty good even though he totally flunked a heart scan and had quadruple bypass surgery in his 50's. Jim's father died young of a heart attack. Can our 24-year-old son be blood tested to see if he inherited Jim's heart gene, or must he wait another ten years for a heart scan? Thanks. -- Cheryl, Boulder, CO.
ANSWER: There currently isn't a genetic test that can tell you exactly what your son's risk will be. The genetic test that use in the study described last night is experimental. Even though it includes genes which do influence risk for heart disease, each gene only has a small impact on risk.
At this point in time, a positive family history of a disease is a much better predictor of risk than genetic testing. But remember, heart disease can be prevented, and it is a good idea to discuss strategies for addressing your risk with a doctor. -- Colleen McBride
QUESTION: Is genetic testing available for schizophrenia? My stepdaughter has schizophrenia or schizoeffective disorder, and her two brothers do not. Can the brothers be genetically tested to determine if their offspring will have schizophrenia? Thanks -- Carla, Houston, Texas
ANSWER: The most appropriate way to address any concerns about the possibility for inherited disease would be to contact a Clinical Genetics Team within their area. A genetics team can do a comprehensive review of medical and family histories. It is this type of detailed information that is needed to assess whether genetic testing would be beneficial to a family or not. A genetics team can help in assessing risks and discussing whether genetic testing is possible, while considering the pros and cons of such testing.