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Taking a Pass on Testing

Worry about being discriminated against by life insurance companies is leading patients to forgo genetic testing, the Australian Financial Review reports.

In Australia, it notes that insurers can't ask potential customers to undergo genetic screening, but if customers have had such tests, they are required to disclose them. This, a genetic counselor tells AFR, is leading people to not pursue such testing. "The fear is impacting on people utilizing these genetic tests that can identify their risk and can guide risk reduction," Sydney University's Kristine Barlow-Stewart says. "They are walking away [from tests] because of their fear of being discriminated against."

She adds that people need to be reassured about how such information is used in insurers' risk assessment.

Christoph Nabholz from insurer Swiss Re tells AFR that it views learning about genetic risk, such as BRCA1 or BRCA2 variants, early as a good thing because it could lead people to take preventive measures.

"The earlier you know about the breast cancer detection, you get into screening programs, then the outcomes of that will be taken into account, which is why we are offering actually very good terms [for these applicants]," he says.