Source: iStock/© alexsl
Source: iStock/© alexsl

Americans are hungry to learn the makeup of their DNA, but their doctors aren’t necessarily having a tete a tete about genetic screenings, according to a recent Counsyl survey.

The survey, conducted by ORC International, among 1,020 adults found that more than half (53%) of consumers are eager to find out what’s in their DNA. Although 94% of adults believe you should do genetic screening, only 7% mentioned that their doctor has discussed genetic screening. What’s more, 41% of respondents said their doctor has discussed family history with them.

According to the survey, the perceived benefits of knowing about potential health problems and any impact on future generations outweighs the fear or anxiety of finding out, with only 11% of respondents saying they would be scared to find out what’s in their DNA and more than half wanting to find out.

The survey also found that most consumers aren’t aware that the right time to do genetic screening is before starting a family. In fact, 78% of respondents indicated that they know that DNA can inform them if they could pass on genetic diseases to their children, and 70% want to glean if they could pass on a genetic disease. However, only 28% of respondents think screening should be done before deciding to start a family.

“Just like family characteristics, such as hair and eye color, people can inherit genetic diseases from their parents. In fact, two people who are carriers for the same condition have a one in four chance of passing the disease to their children. Pursuing genetic screening before getting pregnant gives couples important knowledge that can make a difference for a family’s well-being,” said Shivani Nazareth, director of Women’s Health at Counsyl.

“In most cases where children are born with severe inherited diseases, there was no ‘family history’ known,” added Dr. Jim Goldberg, chief medical officer at Counsyl.  “It’s only when two individuals carry a gene for the same disorder that they are at risk of having an affected offspring and only with carrier screening can we identify these couples.”

Millennials give more thought to finding out what’s in their DNA than their older counterparts. Of respondents aged 18 to 24, 84% have thought about finding out what’s in their DNA. Of those who’ve considering genetic screening, 76% want to know their results. This is in contrast to 44% of respondents over age 65 who have considered genetic screening and only 32% of those respondents who would want to know results.

When queried why they wouldn’t want to find out if they have a genetic disease or could pass on a genetic disease to their future children, 35% of respondents said, I believe what’s meant to be will be; 18% would rather be in the dark; cost was an issue with 16%; having no family history of genetic disease was cited given by 15%, while 12% are just too nervous to find out. Nine percent of respondents indicated they’ve heard that the results are often inaccurate.

After being told that if you test positive for a genetic disease, you can take steps to potentially prevent the disease, or at least detect it at an earlier state when treatment may be more successful, respondents were asked, Does knowing this influence your opinion about genetic screening?  Four in five respondents (80%) stated that their opinions about genetic screening were influenced by the idea that early detection of a genetic disease can help prevent the disease, or at least detect it earlier when treatment may be more successful. Half (51%) find it comforting to know that they would be able to take action against a possible problem, while three in ten (29%) said they want to live a long healthy life and any information is good information. Women and younger respondents are more likely to be influenced by this information.

Finally, when asked, Would you want to find out if you have a genetic disease or could pass on a genetic disease to your future children? 68% of males and 72% of females said yes, and 32% of males and 28% of females gave thumbs down to the idea.

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