Health care providers and even consumers who order their own genetic testing should really get to know GINA. Who or what is GINA? Is it some new virtual voice-activated personal assistant? Is she a new Italian superstar? Neither choice is correct. GINA stands for the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, a U.S. federal law that was put in place to protect consumers from discrimination based on their genetic testing. GINA celebrates ...

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For $199 and a tube of saliva, I found out that I have straight hair and green eyes. Mirrors have been telling me this my whole life for free. But as a genetics counselor, I wanted to learn more about the recreational home genetics tests that have been captivating people. What I was left with (aside from the aforementioned physical description and unsurprising heritage data), was the sense that the dangers ...

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Test your medicine knowledge with the MKSAP challenge, in partnership with the American College of Physicians. A 46-year-old man is evaluated for intermittent rectal bleeding of 3 months' duration. He is otherwise well and takes no medications. His father had a few polyps removed from the colon when he was 71 years old, but no other details are known about his father's medical history. The ...

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Before the invention of the stethoscope, doctors routinely laid their ears on chests of patients to check how they were doing. Homemade concoctions, essentially placebos, often made people feel better. Doctors visited homes of patients who would later pay them whatever they could afford. Local apothecaries sold morphine, a derivative of opium, to reduce pain. Medicine for its part was a nascent science - most of today’s diseases were yet ...

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STAT_Logo Home delivery for everything from fresh produce to custom-selected clothing has become a way of life for many Americans. While most home-delivery conveniences are generally changing our lives for the better — giving us more time and choices — at-home genetics kits that reveal information about the risk of developing certain cancers represent a risky step in ...

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The approval by the Food and Drug Administration of 23andMe’s BRCA test is bound to create a discussion about the merits and pitfalls of direct to consumer genetic testing for cancer risk. It is also going to add fuel to a growing fire about how we as a nation assess genetic risks for cancer, and whether society is prepared for what is inevitably going to become a ...

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Technological advancement often outpaces society’s ability to understand how to use new advances. Direct-to-consumer genetic testing (DTC-GT) is one such technology whose true power far exceeds our collective mental bandwidth to comprehend. Home testing kits have come into mainstream culture over a short period of time. In 2010, the direct to consumer testing market was valued at $15 million. It grew almost nine times to $130 million in just five years ...

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Born in 1920, Henrietta Lacks lived in Virginia and Maryland, worked as a tobacco farmer, and mothered five children.  At age 31, her life was unfortunately cut short by cervical cancer.  Since her death, she has helped catalyze numerous biomedical discoveries. Upon treatment at Johns Hopkins, Henrietta’s physician obtained a tumor sample.  To his amazement, her cells survived and divided in a petri dish.  Today, her cells are still used in ...

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With the attempts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, it is a good time to educate our leaders on an opportunity to significantly reduce the incidence of the most expensive and common preventable, pre-existing condition: What your mother did or didn’t eat when she was pregnant with you. Yes, it is a pre-existing condition that determines how you die. Confused? Let me give you a little scientific context. Recently I was ...

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We cannot let the anecdote rule over us.   We don’t make sound policy if we are swayed by isolated emotional vignettes.  Of course, a vignette describes a living, breathing human being, but we must consider the greater good, the overall context and the risk of letting our hearts triumph over our heads when making general policy.  Consider these examples. If an expensive drug treatment program keeps five addicts clean for six ...

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