What would you do if a genetic screening indicated that you had a 70% chance of developing Alzheimer’s? Well, a recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine suggests that people really don’t seem to care. From a summary in the New York Times:

…the Scripps Translational Science Institute followed more than 2,000 people who had a genomewide scan by the Navigenics company. After providing saliva, they were given estimates of their genetic risk for more than 20 different conditions, including obesity, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, several forms of cancer, multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer’s. About six months after getting the test results, delivered in a 90-page report, the typical person’s level of psychological anxiety was no higher than it had been before taking the test.

Although they were offered sessions, at no cost, with genetic counselors who could interpret the results and allay their anxieties, only 10 percent of the people bothered to take advantage of the opportunity. They apparently didn’t feel overwhelmed by the information, and it didn’t seem to cause much rash behavior, either.

Would you want to be screened for diseases? What would you do with the information once you had it?


Bloss, C.S., Schorck, N.J., Topol, E.J. (2011). Effect of direct-to-consumer genomewide profiling to assess disease risk. New England Journal of Medicine