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Genetic Tests Overused

About a third of genetic tests are ordered when they should not have been, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports.

In a small study, researchers from the San Diego Naval Medical Center examined 114 cases to find 44 in which genetic tests were used in ways not proscribed by current guidelines, the Union-Tribune says. They found that two dozen tests were ordered to diagnose certain symptoms, but that the tests were not designed to address such symptoms. The researchers presented their findings at the American Congress of Gynecologists and Obstetricians.

Though the study was small, the Union-Tribune notes that it lines up with a number of recent findings that suggest that genetic tests are misused and misinterpreted. For instance, a 2014 study indicated that a quarter of genetic tests were ordered improperly. Additionally, another 2014 study uncovered three cases in which a genetic screening test incorrectly found that unborn babies might have had trisomy 21, leading the mothers to seek abortions. However, as a screening test, the genetic test should have been follow by a more invasive diagnostic test, which would have uncovered the error, the paper notes.

"This underlines that informed decision-making is very important," San Diego Naval Medical Center's Kathleen Ruzzo tells the Union-Tribune.