The Test That Will Make Hypochondriacs Even CrazierS

It would be nice to know your chances of getting cancer, diabetes, or heart disease later in life, right? Soon, for around $1,000, you can, with your very own genome test. Sounds like fun!

Sure, it might suck to find out that you have a high chance of getting some fatal disease one day. But what if you get the test results and it turns out that you aren't predisposed to, say, liver cancer? Then you can party like there's no tomorrow, without risking an early death! Or maybe not. Arthur Caplan, PhD, director of the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania, told WebMD that as of now, there are no requirements for companies offering the tests to provide counseling or to help put results into perspective for their clients. That seems like an ethically sound approach, so what's the problem here?

Amidst all the genome hype, people ignore environmental causes," Caplan tells WebMD. "They say, 'I don't have the gene for breast cancer, but smoke three packs of cigarettes a day and never exercise.' Not having a risk gene for a disease is false security, and having one is not a death sentence. All this has to be explained."

One person who had his genomes tested, Stanford Professor Stephen Quake, found out last year that he has an increased risk of heart attack, diabetes and some cancers and told the BBC, "It's certainly been interesting. I was curious to see what would show up." But he added that "there are many ethical, educational and policy questions that need to be addressed going forward." Yeah, like regulation? Right now, the test costs just under $10,000, but once it becomes cheaper, anyone willing to spend about $1,000 can ruin their lives. This should work out well.

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