Genetic Testing for Common Non-Communicable Diseases

News Blog readers will know that I am no fan of genetic testing for common conditions, such as asthma or diabetes (see previous post). My argument gains support from recent literature summarised in an editorial in the Annals of Internal Medicine.[1] An obese person with the lowest genetic risk is five times more likely to develop diabetes than a normal weight person with the highest genetic risk, for example. Moreover (and as pointed out in a previous blog), knowledge of genetic risk is ineffective in promoting behaviour change. Private screening not only externalises costs (such as counselling and treating) to the health service, but also results in less satisfied customers whose expectations have been raised to levels that are hard to meet. The libertarian CLAHRC WM Director would not ban direct-to-consumer testing, but would seek to regulate it in the same way as cigarette advertising is regulated. Of course, the threshold where providing information topples over into hype is a tricky one for a regulator to define.

— Richard Lilford, CLAHRC WM Director


  1. Burke W & Trinidad SB. The Deceptive Appeal of Direct-to-Consumer Genetics. Ann Intern Med. 2016; 164: 564-5.

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