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  • Could my genetic makeup prevent me from buying life insurance?
  • March 1, 2011
  • Inconclusive advancements

    While there are fears that genetic testing has the ability to open a Pandora’s box for those applying for life insurance, authorities in the medical community continue to question the reliability of DNA tests.

    Concerned with the possibility that test results are misleading, the FDA and the Federal Trade Commission have also started to question the accuracy of genetic testing.

    “DNA shows certain predispositions to illness, but it is not 100 percent precise in determining this predisposition,” said Peel. “Predilection, preferences and behavior are in the gene, but the legitimate studies are just not there yet to actually predict with any confidence if you will become ill, even if you are susceptible to a certain condition.”

    The National Institutes of Health have pointed out that clinical genetic tests are available through physicians, genetic counselors and labs, for more than 1,300 diseases, and hundreds more under research.

    Harking back to the nature versus nurture debate, geneticists are swimming in a muddy pool of uncertainty when it comes to predicting the full course of a genetic abnormality.

    “I don’t know if genetic tests are misleading, but I do know that we don’t have enough data,” said McCabe. “Most disorders are not caused by a single gene interaction, it’s an interaction of multiple genes combined with our environment.”

    Even if you received a positive result for being presymptomatic (when symptoms have not appeared), a genetic test cannot accurately establish the risk of developing an illness. Physicians cannot use your results to predict the course or the severity of a condition. The information a test provides is even more limited when it comes to a condition that is inherited.

    Also, DNA testing can miss a disease-causing anomaly because some tests cannot detect all the genetic changes that would jumpstart a particular illness, requiring further testing to confirm a negative result.

    “Everyone has common, natural variations in their DNA, (polymorphisms) that have no effect on health,” said McCabe. “If there is a change in the DNA that isn’t associated with the disorder, it can be difficult to determine if it is a natural variation or not.”

    She adds, while a result can rule out a specific diagnosis, it cannot show if the person has a higher risk of developing a disease or illness.

    “When this happens, generally family members are also tested to rule out a certain disorder,” said McCabe.

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