Your Verdict On Getting A Genome Test? Bring It On

Oct 5, 2012
Originally published on October 5, 2012 3:24 pm

The news that the cost of personal genome sequencing will soon drop as low as $1,000 has generated a quite a bit of interest and concern — from medical researchers, biotech companies, bioethicists and the average consumer alike.

NPR's Rob Stein explored many of the implications of this technology in his four-part series "The $1,000 Genome." They're complicated, to say the least.

How many people out there would be willing to get their entire genome mapped? And are they prepared for the revelations it could make about their health and risk for disease?

So we decided to ask you, readers of Shots, in an online survey we added to Stein's posts from the series. The survey is certainly not scientific. But given the interest in the series, we thought a few questions would be worth a try. It turns out the respondents leaned strongly in favor of the tests, and the insight they may lend to understanding health.

First, we asked: "Would you have your genome sequenced if you could afford it?"

Of the 6,627 people who participated, 81 percent said yes. About 10 percent were undecided, while 9 percent said no.

Next, we asked, "If you had your genome sequenced, would you want to know everything?" As Stein reported, even James Watson, who shared a Nobel Prize for discovering the structure of DNA, told the researchers who sequenced his genome that he didn't want to know the test's prediction for Alzheimer's. "There's nothing you can do to prevent it, so why would you want to know?" Watson said.

About 5,400 people weighed in on this question, and the majority (74 percent) said would they would want all the details, while 16 percent said they would not and 10 percent said they weren't sure.

So, it seems among the people who weighed in on Shots at least, most welcome the arrival of this tool, and are hungry to learn from it. That's despite the possibility of discovering some unsavory risks they hadn't anticipated.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.