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Poll: Majority of Americans Interested in Genetic Testing

But researchers wonder if everyone is adept at accurately interpreting test results

THURSDAY, March 12, 2015 (HealthDay News) — A majority of Americans taking part in a new poll said they’d be interested in genetic testing to see if they or their children are at risk for serious illnesses. The findings were published online March 6 in Public Health Genomics.

A team at the University of Michigan’s C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital looked at data from a national online survey. The researchers found that 59 percent of respondents, including parents and adults without children, were interested in “whole genome sequencing.” Nearly 62 percent of parents said they would want genetic testing for themselves. And 58 percent of parents were interested in genetic testing for their children.

Those with the highest levels of interest in genetic testing included mothers and parents whose youngest children had more than two health conditions, while people with conservative political views had low levels of interest. Levels of interest were also higher among adults who were planning to have children within five years, compared with current parents. This may be because parents with healthy children may have their “minds at ease” about the genes they’ve already passed to their children, the research team suggested.

“As genome sequencing becomes faster and cheaper, we expect the technology to become used more frequently in clinics and the private market,” study senior author Beth Tarini, M.D., said in a university news release. “We wanted to know what kind of factors influenced patient demand for this test, especially among parents.” Still, ethical questions remain. While genetic tests can reveal the risk for certain diseases, there are also concerns about the accurate interpretation of test results and how useful they would actually be for parents, the researchers pointed out.

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