Genetic Tests Coming To A Drugstore Near You | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

: 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.

NPR

The World Music Education of Philip Glass

In his new memoir, Music Without Words, the composer explains how a chance meeting with Ravi Shankar sparked a fascination with the cultures of the world and their music.
NPR

PepsiCo Swaps Diet Drink's Aspartame For Other Artificial Sweeteners

The company says Diet Pepsi consumers are concerned about aspartame. But the Food and Drug Administration has long affirmed that the sweetener is safe in amounts commonly used by beverage companies.
NPR

Surgeon General Vivek Murthy On Gun Control, Vaccines And Science

Surgeon General Vivek Murthy was officially sworn in this week. His confirmation was held up for more than a year because of comments he made about gun violence. Murthy talks with NPR's Scott Simon.
NPR

As Health Apps Hop On The Apple Watch, Privacy Will Be Key

The notion of receiving nutrition advice from artificial intelligence on your wrist may seem like science fiction. But health developers are betting this kind of behavior will become the norm.

Leave a Comment

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