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Know Thy Genes. Or Not.

As DNA sequencing becomes more commonplace, researchers are investigating what motivates healthy people to learn about their genetic risk of disease and how useful they view the information they receive, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Projects like the PeopleSeq Consortium, led by Robert Green at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, are surveying people about how their sequencing information has affected their healthcare. While not all the survey responses are finalized, the Journal reports that people's main concern about sequencing is that they might learn something they'd rather not know. Still about 20 percent of those surveyed said they sought sequencing because of something specific in their family history, and these participants were more likely to say they'd learned something they thought would help improve their health.

Robert Hayward, a physician at the University of Vermont Medical Center, took part in the sequencing project, and he tells the Journal that he did learn a few things that he'd likely share with his family. At the same time, he says that not all patients need their genomes sequenced "because you could be chasing after red herrings and doing a lot of harm."

He rather suggests to "start with a patient that has a condition and then do testing, rather than looking for things in perfectly healthy people," though he notes that some people may "want to drill down and are interested in the genetic code and what it means," while others just want to know whether they might pass disease risk to their children.