Reporter joins DNA risk-analysis study‘s Randy Dotinga took part in the growing trend of using genetic analysis to determine risk levels for certain diseases. Dotinga wrote one story after the test itself, and another after his results came back. Dotinga learned that he may be more inclined to pick up colon cancer and a little less likely to get Alzheimer’s. In the process, he also learned that nobody really knows just how useful these tests are.

That’s where Dotina and about 2,600 others come in. In exchange for deeply discounted genetic tests, Dotinga and other test subjects will fill out regular questionnaires for the next 20 years of their lives. The study aims to find out just what folks do with information gleaned from genetic testing, as well just how accurate the testing is.

To hear Dotinga tell it, genetic testing seems similar to regular cancer screenings, in that the benefit in early detection of problems may be outweighed by the cost of testing and the detection of harmless problems and the unnecessary procedures that may result.

“If you get back a report saying you are at risk for 10 things, you have 10 to-dos,” said (Jason Bobe, director of community for Harvard University’s Personal Genome Project). “You may spend a whole bunch of money on a diagnostic odyssey to see if you have these conditions. Along the way, we may save a lot of lives, but spend a lot of money on people getting unnecessary medical care.”

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