Public Attitudes Toward Genetic Risk Testing and Its Role in Healthcare

Holly Etchegary


Personalized Medicine. 2014;11(5):509-522. 

In This Article

Public Attitudes Toward Genetics Are Generally Positive, but Complex

Broadly speaking, multiple studies suggest that the public is fairly positive about genomics and new genetic technologies. For example, a large body of research shows that attitudes toward genetic testing for predisposition to common, complex disorders are highly favorable, with large majorities indicating they would be personally willing to use genetic testing for specific conditions.[4–6,25–28] Even in sensitive areas such as genetic testing for psychiatric disorders or disorders for which there is currently no cure (e.g., Alzheimer's disease), interest in testing is high.[29–31] For example, in the REVEAL study, a series of randomized trials carried out between 2000 and 2013, more than 700 participants have undergone genetic testing for this incurable illness [e.g.,.[32,33] Similarly, parents show high interest in newborn screening for a variety of conditions, including those for which there is no cure (e.g., blindness, fatal neurological conditions).[3,25,34–36] Attitudes toward DTC genetic tests are also fairly positive, despite low testing uptake.[2] People express an interest out of simple curiosity, or because they are interested in their family genealogy and/or concerned about their family's disease risks.[37,38] The public is more likely to order a DTC genetic test that is administered by a medical professional than a private company as they are concerned about the privacy of their medical information and are skeptical about access to genetic counseling through the company offering the test.[39] These sorts of considerations highlight the complexity of beliefs that underlie genetic testing interest and uptake.