Knowing the risks, for better or worse

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Andres Metspalu from the Institute of Genomics (University of Tartu) shares his experience in cancer research in Estonia in the article “POLITICO Global Policy Lab: Europe’s mortality gap — Knowing the risks — ‘Blunt indicators’”.

How is this data being used for cancer research?

We’ve been using it in rare diseases for a while now, but this is basically a historic moment for how genetics will be used in common diseases. Now we see there’s lots of variance in the genome that can increase the risk or decrease the risk.

Are the findings more relevant for prevention or treatment?

I would call this “precision prevention.” I think that genetic data can be used to convince people to change their lifestyle.

What about people discovering they’re at risk for cancers that are hard to prevent or treat?

We have to learn how to share these results. There are pilot projects for breast cancer and coronary artery disease; about 1,000 have received biobank results so far, and 2,000 are expected by the end of the year.

We are interviewing participants before, after and six months later. There’s a perception that people get really anxious and develop depression [when they learn about risks for serious diseases]. But we’re seeing that’s not so. People say it’s valuable.

Read a whole article here.

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