Most Parents Don't Overreact to Child Gene Tests

Nov. 6 --

WEDNESDAY, Nov. 5 (HealthDay News) -- Family history and genetic testing trigger an equal amount of concern among parents when it comes to assessing their children's risk of disease, a new study suggests.

The findings, by researchers at the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children's Hospital, seem to contradict fears that people may give too much clout to a genetic test result.

"We were surprised to find that parents were not overly concerned about a child's genetic test result compared to a child's genetic risk that comes from family history," study lead author Dr. Beth A. Tarini, an assistant professor of pediatrics, said in a university news release.

"Our findings suggest that even as genetic tests become more accessible, family history will likely remain a meaningful part of a child's health evaluation and our discussions with parents," said Tarini, who is a member of the Child Health Evaluation and Research Unit at Mott.

The researchers asked about 2,000 parents to assess their level of concern for their own and their children's genetic disease risk based on family history and genetic testing. While the parents rated family history and genetic testing the same for their children, they were more likely to be worried when family history -- but not genetic testing -- indicated they may be at risk for developing a disease.

"Parents interpreted risk differently for themselves than for their children. For parents, family history -- in effect, one's observed genetic destiny -- trumped disease risk as measured by genetic tests," Tarini said.

The study was published in the November issue of the journal Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine.

The researchers said they did the study because direct-to-consumer genetic testing makes it easier for families to get genetic test results, and studies have shown that people's perception of genetic disease risk can influence their health-care decisions.

More information

The U.S. National Human Genome Research Institute has more about genetic testing.

SOURCE: University of Michigan, news release, Nov. 3, 2008