: News

Filed Under:

Genetic Tests Coming To A Drugstore Near You

Play associated audio
Walgreen's plans to sell over-the-counter genetic tests.
Rebecca Sheir
Walgreen's plans to sell over-the-counter genetic tests.

By Rebecca Sheir

Genetic testing is coming to the corner drug store. Shoppers at Walgreen's will soon be able to buy a test that could help determine whether they're predisposed to certain ailments.

Direct-to-consumer genetic tests, or DTC, have been available since 2007.

"So now we're going from DTC to OTC: over the counter," says Beth Peshkin, a genetic counselor at Georgetown University.

But Peshkin doesn't think consumers will be lining up to toss the new tests in their shopping basket. She says most people who'd be interested are probably already pro-active about their health.

"But for one particular person who learns he or she may have an increased risk of heart disease, if that person then decides to eat more healthfully and exercise, that's a good thing," she says.

The problem, says Katie Decicco-Skinner, a cancer biologist at American University, is the tests might not be accurate, since they analyze a limited number of genes. And diseases such as cancer come from a large number of genes.

"So if you have this false sense of security because you come out negative in this test," Decicco-Skinner says, "you may all of a sudden decide that you no longer want to get mammograms, and it might make you worse off than had you not gotten the test to begin with."

Both Decicco-Skinner and Peshkin say consumers should use these tests with a grain of salt. Nothing substitutes for what Peshkin calls the "gold standard:" talking to a genetic counselor, or to your doctor.


Understanding Rosa Parks As "A Life-Long Freedom Fighter"

As the 60th anniversary of the historic Montgomery Bus Boycott approaches, author Jeanne Theoharis says it's time to let go of the image of Rosa Parks as a meek accidental activist.

Internet Food Culture Gives Rise To New 'Eatymology'

Internet food culture has brought us new words for nearly every gastronomical condition. The author of "Eatymology," parodist Josh Friedland, discusses "brogurt" with NPR's Rachel Martin.
WAMU 88.5

World Leaders Meet For The UN Climate Change Summit In Paris

World leaders meet for the UN climate change summit in Paris to discuss plans for reducing carbon emissions. What's at stake for the talks, and prospects for a major agreement.


Payoffs For Prediction: Could Markets Help Identify Terrorism Risk?

In a terror prediction market, people would bet real money on the likelihood of attacks. NPR's Scott Simon speaks with Stephen Carter about whether such a market could predict — and deter — attacks.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.