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Medical News and Perspectives
January 11, 1995

Prognosis, Diagnosis, or Who Knows? Time to Learn What Gene Tests Mean

JAMA. 1995;273(2):93-95. doi:10.1001/jama.1995.03520260009003

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Abstract

THE MUCH-HERALDED genetics revolution in medicine, though still largely limited to academe, is lurching relentlessly toward the primary care physician's door.

Tests for genes associated with common disorders like colon cancer and atherosclerosis are already on the market. Tests for genes linked to breast cancer, obesity, and a host of others are sure to follow.

A directory being compiled at Children's Hospital in Seattle, Wash, called Helix (soon to be on the Internet and available now by calling [206] 528-2689) shows that 192 laboratories are now testing for genes proved or suspected to be associated with 256 different diseases, says Roberta (Bonnie) Pagon, MD, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington School of Medicine.

Yet most observers say that few physicians, let alone lay citizens, are ready for all the ramifications of a science that has gone way beyond the simplicity of Gregor Mendel's sweet pea experiments.

"There

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