YOU DECIDE: Would you want to know the diseases you may get in the future?

If there was a way to know what diseases you will get in your lifetime, would you want to know? If you did find out, how would it affect the way you live your life?

These are questions being asked recently following an announcement from the retail chain Walgreens that it would sell Insight personal genetic testing kits. Manufactured by California-based Pathway Genomics, the test kits claim to screen for genetic markers of over 70 diseases, including diabetes, breast cancer, cystic fibrosis, Alzheimer’s and obesity. The kits are priced between $20 and $30 and require the user to send a vial of saliva to the Pathway Genomics laboratory. The resulting online genetic report costs between $79 and $179, depending on the type of report.

Pathway officials insist the kits do not need Federal Drug Administration (FDA) approval. Ed MacBean, Pathway’s vice president of product management, said, “The tests conducted are not an in-vitro medical device and are not intended for use in diagnosis, treatment, mitigation or cure of disease. It does provide information that allows a person to learn about their health to make healthier lifestyle choices.” Still, some scientists are questioning the merits of such test kits. Researchers believe the kits only give users a small slice of the vast genetic information needed to truly predict a person’s medical future.

Whether or not the tests are accurate . . . would you want to know these things about yourself? Assuming that a more complete and affordable test is one day available, how would that information change the way you live? Would you change your lifestyle at all?

Update:

Walgreens was preparing to place these kits on the shelves of 6,000 of its 7,500 stores until a letter from the FDA expressing concerns over the product made the retail chain reconsider the plan. The open letter to Pathway Genomics from the FDA can be found here. The corporation will hold off on carrying the test kits until the FDA’s concerns are addressed.

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