08/15/2006 - For years now, worried Americans – and even just the medically curious – have been able to glimpse their potential health future through genetic testing. And until recently, the nearly 1,000 genetic tests on the market have been available mainly through hospitals and doctors' offices and have been cautiously interpreted by trained genetic counselors.
But that is changing with the advent of direct-to-consumer (DTC) genetic testing, a booming and controversial subset of the $6 billion genetic testing and molecular diagnostics business.
Because of its potential to mislead consumers, the DTC genetic testing industry is generating concern among doctors, patient advocates and, most recently, the Senate Special Committee on Aging, which held a hearing last month titled "At-Home DNA Tests: Marketing Scam or Medical Breakthrough?"
"It's a 'buyer beware' marketplace now," said Gail Javitt, law and policy director of the Genetics and Public Policy Center at Johns Hopkins University. "While the public believes genetic testing is subject to government oversight, that is largely not the case."
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Pew is no longer active in this line of work, but for more information, visit the Genetics & Public Policy Center Web site or visit the Genetics and Public Policy Centeron PewHealth.org.