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Public Health Genomics and Genetic Test Evaluation: The Challenge of Conducting Behavioural Research on the Utility of Lifestyle-Genetic TestsSanderson S.C.a-c · Wardle J.b · Humphries S.E.c
aSocial and Behavioral Research Branch, National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), National Institutes of Health (NIH), Bethesda, Md., USA; bHealth Behaviour Research Centre, Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, and cCentre for Cardiovascular Genetics, Department of Medicine, University College London, UK Corresponding Author
Prof. Steve Humphries
Centre for Cardiovascular Disease, Rayne Building
5 University Street
London WC1E 6JJ (UK)
Tel. +44 207 679 6962, Fax +44 207 679 212, E-Mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Human genetics research is increasingly concerned with multifactorial conditions such as diabetes and heart disease, which are influenced not only by genetic but also lifestyle factors such as diet and smoking. Although the results of ‘lifestyle-genetic’ tests using this information could conceivably motivate lifestyle changes in the future, companies are already selling such tests and related lifestyle advice commercially. Some academics and lobby groups have condemned the companies for selling these tests in advance of scientific support. Others are concerned that the tests may not motivate lifestyle improvements, instead causing distress in people receiving adverse test results and complacency in those receiving reassuring results. There is currently no regulatory oversight of genetic test utility, despite consensus in the Public Health Genomics community that clinical utility (including psychological and behavioural impact) of all emerging genetic tests should be evaluated before being introduced for individual use. Clearly, empirical data in this area is much needed, to inform understanding of the potential utility of these tests, and of whether stricter regulation of commercial exploitation is needed. In this article, we review the current situation regarding lifestyle-genetic tests, and discuss the challenges inherent in conducting this kind of behavioural research in the genomics era.
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