by Dr. Hsien-Hsien Lei
Posted September 26, 2007 in DNA Testing, Polls About DNA
Nobody likes going to the doctor. (And if you do, I want to know why!) It’s inconvenient, time consuming, potentially expensive, and downright scary. You may think you’re going in for a routine check-up only to be told that you have a health condition that needs regular medication, like a partially clogged artery that requires statins. Worse still, what if the doctor proclaims you only have 8500 days until you’re dead?
No one who’s taken it is frightened or scared when they get their results back. It’s all probabilistic — just like a cholesterol test. People have an intuitive [understanding of] testing and they’re not scared.
It’s one thing to be tested for a specific genetic mutation because you’re at high risk due to family history or other clinical indicators. It’s another thing to get a whole genome scan to highlight areas that may or may not cause you problems in the future depending on your lifestyle, environmental exposures, and level of impact conferred by the gene. Reminds me of what some relatives have told me in the past:
You think you’re healthy when you go see the doctor. No symptoms. Nothing. Then they do all those tests and find out there’s something wrong with you. And the next thing you know, you’re dead or dying!
The big hurdle to whole genome sequencing may not be the technology itself. Companies that focus on direct-to-consumer medical genetic testing, such as Navigenics, DNA Direct, and Myriad (see previous post about advertising for the BRACAnalysis genetic test), must also think about how to appropriately market their services and convince consumers that there is truly nothing to fear from having more genetic information.
I confess that I’m a little scared to know more about my DNA. Tell me I’m not alone. Are you scared too? Take the poll below!
Update: A comment left by InsaneDisabled in response to Esther Dyson’s piece about the Health 2.0 conference seems to agree with me:
Americans don’t want to know everything about their health. We treat our bodies like we treat our cars. We don’t need to know what’s under the hood. That’s the mechanic’s job.
*Disclosure: I work for DNA Direct, which occupies the same space as Navigenics.
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