The publication of More Genes Direct by the Human Genetics Commission is a timely reminder of the potential impact that ‘over-the-counter’ genetic testing (that is, a direct genetic test without the need for a medical referral) may have on the NHS. This article considers the relevance of current genetic research on complex common diseases and how this might translate into risk estimates for developing conditions such as dementia, cancer, and cardiovascular disease. The implications for primary care include the need to understand the current limitations of genetic testing and its commercial application over the counter, and the importance of continuing to make risk assessments using family history. The authors recommend caution in the premature introduction of over-the-counter testing without a sound evidence base.
- general practice
- genetic testing