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Are We Ready to Find Out?

As the Wall Street Journal and New York Times have both reported, Walgreens has decided to hold off on selling direct-to-consumer DNA testing kits until the FDA approves them. But Katherine Hobson of the WSJ's Health Blog says the issue isn't just whether Pathway Genomics can sell these kits without FDA approval or not, it's also about the larger issue of whether consumers are ready to know what's in their genetic code. "One of the big concerns about this test and direct-to-consumer genetic testing in general [is] giving people often-vague information about their risks for certain diseases might cause worry and distress, especially if there’s no sure way to reduce those risks," Hobson says. Some people disagree, however. Hobson quotes Thomas Goetz, an editor for Wired , who says those concerns echo the patronizing attitudes of decades past when doctors weren't always up front with patients about their diagnoses because they perceived their patients as unable to handle the truth. Goetz also cites a study in the New England Journal of Medicine which found that when patients found out about their genetic risk for Alzheimer's, it didn't "result in significant short-term psychological risks." Goetz says, "We don't need the FDA or docs as info gatekeepers."