It’s a hard question to answer: Would you want to know if you had the gene that increased your likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s disease and how would you react to the news? Researchers from Boston University School of Medicine examined the effect of such “genotype disclosure” in a controlled trial. According to the study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, 162 asymptomatic adults who had a parent with Alzheimer’s disease were randomly assigned to receive the results of their own APOE genotyping or not to receive the results. Any symptoms of anxiety, depression and test-related distress were measured at 6 weeks, 6 months and 1 year after disclosure or nondisclosure. Surprisingly, there were no significant differences between the two groups in any of three responses measured. (Test-related distress was reduced among those who learned that they were negative for the gene.) They did find that people with high levels of emotional distress before undergoing genetic testing were more likely to have emotional difficulties after disclosure. However, researchers concluded that telling the adult children of patients with Alzheimer’s disease about their genotyping results did not result in significant short-term psychological risks.
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