Wouldn’t You Like to Know!

If you had a family history of developing Alzheimer’s disease, would you take a genetic test that would give you more information about your chances?

Increasingly it seems, people are saying ‘yes’. The controversial genetic test is based on Apolipoprotein E (APOE).  Having certain variants of the APOE gene has been found to significantly increase a person’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

However, possession of the APOE variant is neither necessary nor sufficient to cause Alzheimer’s disease. This limitation, along with a general lack of treatment options for Alzheimer’s, has raised concerns that the genetic information could burden rather than benefit patients. Consequently, there are a lot of consensus statements and articles against the use of APOE genotyping for predicting Alzheimer’s risk.

Nevertheless, a recent study has shown that patients want to learn about their APOE test results and are not overtly distressed by them.  The Risk Evaluation and Education for Alzheimer’s disease Study (REVEAL), showed that even if the test does not have clinical utility it has personal utility.  Study participants who discovered they have an elevated risk, not only accepted the news but were more likely to initiative preventative life-style measures and more likely to consider retirement planning and purchase long term care insurance.  Knowing their risk also helped patients to have informed discussions with their partners and families.

SRxA’s Word on Health would like to know:

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