April 12, 2016 – Genetic Risk


Anchor lead:  If you knew your genetic risk for a disease, would that change your behavior? Elizabeth Tracey reports

Even when presented with individualized genetic risk assessments for things like heart disease or diabetes, most people don’t change their behavior to compensate, a recent study in the BMJ reports.  Mike Klag, dean of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, isn’t surprised.

Klag: There’s basically no effect in providing people this kind of information with behavior change.  I would expect that because the risk associated with any given gene is small, and second we know that risk information is just not enough to change behavior. You still need help in deciding what behavior you should change, and how you should do it.  These are small effects of many different genes, and we don’t know the quality of the communication and intervention plan.  These were studies where people were by and large just presented with risk information.   :29

Klag says genetic assessments relative to things like cancer treatment are a good deal more compelling, and says such data may be more convincing as personalized medicine develops further.  At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey.