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Gene testing for diabetes risk is not useful

November 19, 2008 |  3:00 pm

Diabetes1Genetic testing can yield some information about one's risk for various diseases. But when it comes to the chances of developing Type 2 diabetes, undergoing gene testing is not significantly better than an assessment based on traditional risk factors for the disease, such as weight, blood pressure and blood sugar levels, according to a study published today in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The study showed that gene testing can reveal risk-associated gene variants, and the more you inherit, the greater the chance for developing the disease. But for now, a standard checkup will "tell what you need to know about your Type 2 diabetes risk," said the lead author of the study, Dr. James Meigs of Massachusetts General Hospital.

The researchers analyzed records from the Framingham Offspring Study, which follows a group of adult children of participants of the original Framingham study. The database included more than 2,700 participants, with 255 of them developing Type 2 diabetes after 28 years of follow-up.

It's possible that as more genes associated with Type 2 diabetes are discovered, the value of gene testing may become more useful. But, for now, old-fashioned methods of predicting risk are just as good. Still, gene testing may turn out to be a good thing to do, says Meigs, if it makes some patients more willing to change their lifestyles to reduce the risk of developing the disease.

-- Shari Roan

Photo: A plate containing samples of DNA for testing. Credit: Elise Amendola / AP