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The Scan: Decisions, Decisions

With decreases in prices and efforts to sequence the genomes of more and more people, the University of Oxford's Michael Macklay writes at the Conversation that people will need to consider whether they want to know their risk of developing diseases like cancer and dementia.

"[B]efore you provide a saliva sample to have your own genetic recipe book read, it's important to know which results are worth knowing about," he says.

Macklay notes that strides have been made since the sequencing of the first human genome in linking certain genetic variants to disease. However, he cautions that most of these variants have been linked in people who already have disease, so their effect on people who don't or don't yet have disease isn't as clear. In addition, the environment also has its own effect on disease risk, he adds.

There's also the issue of whether the stress and anxiety of knowing you have an increased risk of disease is worth it. "How would you feel if you were told you had a 90% increased risk of breast cancer…?" he writes. "Even if our ability to understand these variants were stronger, would the benefit of knowing this information outweigh the potential anxiety it could cause?"

All in all, Macklay says it's a personal choice as to whether or not to learn genetic risk results.