Genetic screening: Can we handle the truth?
Monday, January 18, 2010; 7:41 AM
If genetic testing were to reveal that you were at increased risk of breast cancer or Alzheimer's disease, how would you cope with that knowledge? Two news items appearing in my inbox recently made me think hard about the value of blood tests for scary diseases. The University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center, responding to direct-to-consumer ads for tests to detect the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes that predispose certain women to breast cancer, notes that women who get positive results likely need counseling to take the news in stride. And the L.A. Times reports that last year's study that showed that people who learned they had a gene linked to Alzheimer's handled the news well has been criticized lately for the way the study was designed. To me, the two scenarios are different. If a woman learns she's at heightened risk of breast cancer, there are some measures she can