A few months ago, a fellow skeptic told me he was considering personalized genetic testing and wondered what my opinion was on the service. The idea is that any consumer who desires can send a DNA sample to a company, like 23andMe, and get a report back on various genetic risk factors. Sounds like a good idea, but it is based on the fallacy that “more information is better for you” and, more specifically, that knowing about risks will alter your behaviour.
In a way, this direct-to-consumer service is trotting out that old American obsession with freedom: these are my genes, so I get to know. You can’t come between me and my biology.
The problems with personalized genetic testing are many: the communication of risk factors to a population that is statistically illiterate; the lack of subscription to quality control and assurance standards; and the revelation of risks that may…
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