Can a genetic test predict if you will develop Type 2 diabetes?
When I got home after work I was surprised to find my husband and three children sitting by the television and watching the news. They had just learned that the direct to consumer genetic testing company 23andMe was now offering a report that assessed the customers’ risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. “Is it true?” my husband asked. “Can they now study my genes and predict whether I will get Type 2 diabetes?”
As a primary care physician who is exploring how to integrate genetic testing into traditional family medicine – a combination we now describe as precision medicine – I was excited to explain the science behind this new report and the barriers to using 23andMe’s new diabetes risk score in current clinical care.
As a family physician, I am eager to identify my patients most at risk for developing diabetes, as this is a very costly and debilitating disease with numerous health consequences such as kidney failure, heart disease, painful neuropathy and limb amputation. In the U.S. alone more than 30 million Americans have Type 2 diabetes and of these 7.2 million are undiagnosed and unaware of their condition. Another 84.1 million adults older than 18 are at high risk and considered prediabetic. So how did 23andMe calculate this risk score, and would it help the millions who were unaware of their state of health?
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