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Posted: 6:00 a.m. Thursday, May 16, 2013

Genetic testing shapes treatment decisions


There's been a lot of media attention devoted to Angelina Jolie's preventative double mastectomy. While people will debate her decision for some time to come, the reality is that we are in an era where genetic testing can lead to very individualized courses of treatment.

It's obvious the actress made a very deliberate decision about her course of treatment based on genetic markers. But it's possible to do much less expensive at-home genetic testing and arrive at some wild conclusions.

Some time ago, The Financial Times of London reported that nearly 100 clients of a company called 23andMe.com got the wrong test results because of sloppy record-keeping on the company's part.

"The mistake left one client believing that her son was not her own, while another was led to understand that she was of African origin while the rest of her family is Caucasian," the newspaper writes.

23andMe.com offers in-home DNA testing starting at $99. Another service called Pathway.com sells testing kits directly to doctors for use by their patients.

In theory, genetic testing at home is supposed to help people. The idea is that disease management will be greatly improved when medical providers can offer guidelines for patients who know they're genetically predisposed to certain diseases.

However, if you're the kind of person who would worry yourself sick about a bad genetic report, then have the foresight to stay away from these services.