Do It Yourself DNA Tests - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

10/6/08

Do It Yourself DNA Tests

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Genetic tests can identify more than 15 hundred genes linked to health outcomes and some of the tests you do yourself without going to a lab or a doctor.

Reporter Michael Gargiulo wanted to find out more about the tests, so he checked his own DNA.

Many DNA tests can be done in just a few minutes. That's how long it took for Gargiulo to rub the swab in his cheek, which was then sent to a lab in Iceland -- headquarters of deCode Genetics, the company chosen for this story.

The cost was $985, and for that deCode's CEO says the test can show you your risk for 29 diseases including type 2 diabetes, heart attack, stroke, breast and prostate cancer.

"This is an opportunity for you to put yourself as an individual in the middle of all the new discoveries since human genetics," said Kari Stefansson, CEO of deCode Genetics.

But genetic counselor, Caroline Leiber, cautions these tests have certain limitations.

"The fact that those results are perhaps going to say, "your risk for heart disease has moved from five percent, and I'm making up the numbers here, to eight percent, how helpful is that information going to be for you in terms of changing your lifestyle."  

And there's an emotional burden.

"You may open the envelope and find out that you have a disease or an increased risk for getting a disease," said Dr. Robert Klitzman, a medical ethicist. "And there's nothing you can do about it."

But Stefansson says testing gives patients more control.

"Now you don't go to the doctor and and sit there and let the doctor tell you what risk you have. You come there with this information. It becomes a productive dialogue."

"Now it's time for me to check the results of my own test," said Gargiulo. "I've been notified they are available on the deCode's web site. And this is the first time I'm seeing them."

Right away, there was a cause for concern. Gargiulo's risk for macular degeneration, a leading cause of blindness, is twice the average. Though he was calmed somewhat, because his DNA profile reveals a normal risk for just about everything else from Alzheimer's to prostate cancer.

"There's no strict formula for deciding whether you should take the kind of DNA test I took," said Gargiulo. "Other than knowing whether you can handle whatever you may find out.

For more information about deCode Genetics, (click here)

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