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1.  Comparing test-specific distress of susceptibility versus deterministic genetic testing for Alzheimer’s disease 
Background
Genetic risk for Alzheimer’s disease (AD) may be conferred by the susceptibility polymorphism apolipoprotein E (APOE), where the ε4 allele increases the risk of developing late-onset Alzheimer’s disease but is not a definitive predictor of the disease, or by autosomal dominant mutations (e.g., the presenilins), which almost inevitably result in early-onset familial Alzheimer’s disease. The purpose of this study was to compare the psychological impact of using these two different types of genetic information to disclose genetic risk for AD to family members of affected patients.
Methods
Data were compared from two separate protocols. The Risk Evaluation and Education for Alzheimer’s Disease (REVEAL) Study is a randomized, multi-site clinical trial that evaluated the impact of susceptibility testing for Alzheimer’s disease with APOE in 101 adult children of Alzheimer’s disease patients. A separate study, conducted at the University of Washington, assessed the impact of deterministic genetic testing by disclosing presenilin-1, presenilin-2, or TAU genotype to 22 individuals at risk for familial Alzheimer’s disease or frontotemporal dementia. In both protocols, participants received genetic counseling and completed the Impact of Event Scale (IES), a measure of test-specific distress. Scores were analyzed at the time point closest to one year post-disclosure at which IES data were available. The role of genetic test result (positive vs. negative) and type of genetic testing (deterministic vs. susceptibility) in predicting log-transformed IES scores was assessed with linear regression, controlling for age, gender, and time from disclosure.
Results
Subjects from the REVEAL Study who learned that they were positive for the susceptibility gene APOE ε4+ experienced similar, low levels of test-specific distress compared to those who received positive results of deterministic testing in the University of Washington study (p= 0.78). APOE ε4+ individuals in the susceptibility protocol experienced more test-specific distress than those who tested ε4− in the same study (p= 0.04); however, among those receiving deterministic test disclosure, the subjects who received positive results did not experience significantly higher levels of distress when compared to those who received negative results (p= 0.88).
Conclusions
The findings of this preliminary study, with limited sample size, suggest that the test-related distress experienced by those receiving positive results for a deterministic mutation is similar to the distress experienced by those receiving positive results from genetic susceptibility testing, and that the majority of participants receiving genotype disclosure do not experience clinically significant distress as indicated by IES scores one year after learning of their test results.
doi:10.1016/j.jalz.2008.04.007
PMCID: PMC2610442  PMID: 19012865
genetic susceptibility testing; deterministic testing; Alzheimer’s disease; APOE; genetic counseling
2.  Dementia risk factors for Australian baby boomers 
Neurology International  2010;2(1):e13.
Baby boomers are individuals born in the years 1946 to 1965. The objective of this paper was to define the risk factors for dementia and Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and their relevance to Australian baby boomers, with the aim of providing evidence-based guidelines for dementia prevention. A series of PubMed searches (1994–2010) were conducted with relevant key words. Data was included from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) in relation to baby boomers in Australia. Article titles and abstracts were assessed by two reviewers for inclusion. Searches through ABS revealed no specific study on baby boomers at a national level; information was only available for Western Australia, South Australia and Queensland. A number of genetic and non-genetic risk factors for dementia were identified most of which remain controversial and require further study. We did not identify significant differences in the prevalence and incidence of dementia in those under 65 years in Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia. There were no correlations of risk factors and dementia between the Australian states. Modification of risk factors has not been proven to reduce the incidence and prevalence of dementia and AD in baby boomers. Nevertheless, on available evidence, we recommend: i) active management of cardiovascular risk factors such as hypertension; ii) the encouragement of a healthy lifestyle (eg, weight reduction, exercise) as offering the best pathways to reduce the emerging dementia risk for baby boomers. The implications are that activities promoting a healthy heart might lead to a healthy brain and help to prevent dementia.
doi:10.4081/ni.2010.e13
PMCID: PMC3093216  PMID: 21577336
dementia; Alzheimer’s disease; baby boomers; evidence-based guidelines.
3.  Use of an educational computer program before genetic counseling for breast cancer susceptibility: Effects on duration and content of counseling sessions 
Purpose:
Patients seeking genetic testing for inherited breast cancer risk are typically educated by genetic counselors; however, the growing demand for cancer genetic testing will likely exceed the availability of counselors trained in this area. We compared the effectiveness of counseling alone versus counseling preceded by use of a computer-based decision aid among women referred to genetic counseling for a family or personal history of breast cancer.
Methods:
We developed and evaluated an interactive computer program that educates women about breast cancer, heredity, and genetic testing. Between May 2000 and September 2002, women at six study sites were randomized into either: Counselor Group (n = 105), who received standard genetic counseling, or Computer Group (n = 106), who used the interactive computer program before counseling. Clients and counselors both evaluated the effectiveness of counseling sessions, and counselors completed additional measures for the Computer Group. Counselors also recorded the duration of each session.
Results:
Baseline characteristics did not differ significantly between groups. Participants and counselors both rated the counseling sessions as highly effective, whether or not the sessions were preceded by computer use. Computer use resulted in significantly shorter counseling sessions among women at low risk for carrying BRCA1/2 mutations. In approximately half of the sessions preceded by clients’ computer use, counselors indicated that clients’ use of the computer program affected the way they used the time, shifting the focus away from basic education toward personal risk and decision-making.
Conclusion:
This study shows that the interactive computer program “Breast Cancer Risk and Genetic Testing” is a valuable adjunct to genetic counseling. Its use before counseling can shorten counseling sessions and allow counselors to focus more on the clients’ individual risks and specific psychological concerns. As the demand for counseling services increases, a program such as this can play a valuable role in enhancing counseling efficiency.
doi:10.1097/01.GIM.0000159905.13125.86
PMCID: PMC1201432  PMID: 15834239
genetic counseling; breast cancer; decision aids; computer based education; genes BRCA1/2
4.  Exploration of transitional life events in individuals with Friedreich ataxia: Implications for genetic counseling 
Abstract
Background
Human development is a process of change, adaptation and growth. Throughout this process, transitional events mark important points in time when one's life course is significantly altered. This study captures transitional life events brought about or altered by Friedreich ataxia, a progressive chronic illness leading to disability, and the impact of these events on an affected individual's life course.
Methods
Forty-two adults with Friedreich ataxia (18-65y) were interviewed regarding their perceptions of transitional life events. Data from the interviews were coded and analyzed thematically using an iterative process.
Results
Identified transitions were either a direct outcome of Friedreich ataxia, or a developmental event altered by having the condition. Specifically, an awareness of symptoms, fear of falling and changes in mobility status were the most salient themes from the experience of living with Friedreich ataxia. Developmental events primarily influenced by the condition were one's relationships and life's work.
Conclusions
Friedreich ataxia increased the complexity and magnitude of transitional events for study participants. Transitional events commonly represented significant loss and presented challenges to self-esteem and identity. Findings from this study help alert professionals of potentially challenging times in patients' lives, which are influenced by chronic illness or disability. Implications for developmental counseling approaches are suggested for genetic counseling.
Background
Human development can be described in terms of key transitional events, or significant times of change. Transitional events initiate shifts in the meaning or direction of life and require the individual to develop skills or utilize coping strategies to adapt to a novel situation [1,2]. A successful transition has been defined as the development of a sense of mastery over the changed event [3].
Transitions can be influenced by a variety of factors including one's stage of development, such as graduation from high school, historical events, including war, and idiosyncratic factors, such as health status [4,5]. Of particular interest in the present study are transitional life events, brought about or altered by progressive chronic illness and disability, and the impact of these events on the lives of affected individuals.
It has been recognized that the clinical characteristics of a chronic illness or disability may alter the course and timing of many developmentally-related transitional events [6]. For example, conditions associated with a shortened lifespan may cause an individual to pursue a career with a shorter course of training [6]. Specific medical manifestations may also promote a lifestyle incongruent with developmental needs [6,7]. For example, an adolescent with a disability may have difficulty achieving autonomy because of his/her physical dependence on others.
In addition to the aforementioned effects of chronic illness and disability on developmentally-related transitional events, a growing body of literature has described disease-related transitional events: those changes that are a direct result of chronic illness and disability. Diagnosis has received attention as being a key disease-related transitional event [8,9]. Studies have also noted other disease transitions related to illness trajectory [10], as the clinical features of the disease may require the individual to make specific adaptations. Disease-related events have also been described in terms of accompanying psychological processes, such as one's awareness of differences brought about by illness [11].
While disease-related events are seemingly significant, the patient's perception of the events is varied. Some events may be perceived as positive experiences for the individual. For example, a diagnosis may end years of uncertainty. Some individuals may perceive these transitional events as insignificant, as they have accommodated to the continual change brought about by a chronic disease [12,13].
The aforementioned impact of disability and chronic illness on transitional events may create psychological stress. Developed by Lazarus and Folkman, the Transitional Model of Stress and Coping describes the process of adaptation to a health condition [14]. This model purports that individuals first appraise a stressor and then utilize a variety of coping strategies in order to meet the stressor's demands [14]. Thus, in the context of chronic illness, the ability of the individual to cope successfully with the stress of a health threat contributes to the process of overall adaptation to the condition.
The process of adaptation can be more complex when the chronic illness or disability is progressive. Each transition brought about or altered by the disability may also represent additional loss, including the loss of future plans, freedom in social life and the ability to participate in hobbies [15]. These losses may be accompanied by grief, uncertainty, and a continual need for adaptation [16,17].
Friedreich ataxia (FRDA) is one example of a progressive disorder, leading to adolescent and adult onset disability. To better understand patients' perceptions of key transitional events and the factors perceived to facilitate progression through these events, individuals with FRDA were interviewed.
FRDA is a rare, progressive, neurodegenerative disorder affecting approximately one in 30,000 people in the United States [18]. It equally affects both men and women. Individuals with FRDA experience progressive muscle weakness and loss of coordination in the arms and legs. For most patients, ataxia leads to motor incapacitation and full-time use of a wheelchair, commonly by the late teens or early twenties. Other complications such as vision and hearing impairment, dysarthria, scoliosis, diabetes mellitus and hypertrophic cardiomyopathy may occur [19,20]. Cardiomyopathy and respiratory difficulties often lead to premature death at an average age of 37 years [21]. Currently, there are no treatments or cures for FRDA. Little is known about the specific psychological or psychosocial effects of the condition.
FRDA is an autosomal recessive condition. The typical molecular basis of Friedreich ataxia is the expansion of a GAA trinucleotide repeat in both copies of the FXN gene [22]. Age of onset usually occurs in late childhood or early adolescence. However, the availability of genetic testing has identified affected individuals with an adult form of the condition. This late-onset form is thought to represent approximately 10-15% of the total FRDA population [23].
Health care providers of individuals with progressive, neurodegenerative disorders can help facilitate their patients' progression through transitional events. Data suggest that improvements should be made in the care of these individuals. Shaw et al. [24] found that individualized care that helps to prepare patients for transition is beneficial. Beisecker et al. [25] found that patients desire not only physical care from their providers, but also emotional and psychosocial support.
Genetic counselors have an important opportunity to help patients with neuromuscular disorders progress through transitional events, as several of these conditions have a genetic etiology. Genetic counselors in pediatric and adult settings often develop long-term relationships with patients, due to follow-up care. This extended relationship is becoming increasingly common as genetic counselors move into various medical sub-specialties, such as neurology, ophthalmology, oncology and cardiology.
The role of the genetic counselor in addressing the psychosocial needs of patients has been advocated, but rarely framed in the context of developmental events [26]. Data suggest that patients may not expect a genetic counselor to address psychosocial needs [27]. In a survey of genetic counseling patients, Wertz [28] found a majority of respondents understood genetic conditions to have a moderate to serious effect on family life and finances, while almost half perceived there to be an effect on the spouse, quality of life, and the relationship between home and work. However, these topics were reportedly not discussed within genetic counseling sessions [27,28]. Overall, there is limited information about the experiences of transitional life events in FRDA, as well as a lack of recommendations for genetic counselors and other health care providers to assist patients through these events.
Our study investigated perceptions of patients with Friedreich ataxia to 1) identify key transitional events and specific needs associated with events; 2) describe perception of factors to facilitate progression through the identified events; and 3) explore the actual or potential role of the health care provider in facilitating adaptation to the identified events. Data were used to make suggestions for developmental genetic counseling approaches in the context of ongoing care of clients with hereditary, progressive, neurodegenerative conditions.
doi:10.1186/1744-9081-6-65
PMCID: PMC2987979  PMID: 20979606
5.  Inverse association between cancer and Alzheimer’s disease: results from the Framingham Heart Study  
Objectives To relate cancer since entry into the Framingham Heart Study with the risk of incident Alzheimer’s disease and to estimate the risk of incident cancer among participants with and without Alzheimer’s disease.
Design Community based prospective cohort study; nested age and sex matched case-control study.
Setting Framingham Heart Study, USA.
Participants 1278 participants with and without a history of cancer who were aged 65 or more and free of dementia at baseline (1986-90).
Main outcome measures Hazard ratios and 95% confidence intervals for the risks of Alzheimer’s disease and cancer.
Results Over a mean follow-up of 10 years, 221 cases of probable Alzheimer’s disease were diagnosed. Cancer survivors had a lower risk of probable Alzheimer’s disease (hazard ratio 0.67, 95% confidence interval 0.47 to 0.97), adjusted for age, sex, and smoking. The risk was lower among survivors of smoking related cancers (0.26, 0.08 to 0.82) than among survivors of non-smoking related cancers (0.82, 0.57 to 1.19). In contrast with their decreased risk of Alzheimer’s disease, survivors of smoking related cancer had a substantially increased risk of stroke (2.18, 1.29 to 3.68). In the nested case-control analysis, participants with probable Alzheimer’s disease had a lower risk of subsequent cancer (0.39, 0.26 to 0.58) than reference participants, as did participants with any Alzheimer’s disease (0.38) and any dementia (0.44).
Conclusions Cancer survivors had a lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease than those without cancer, and patients with Alzheimer’s disease had a lower risk of incident cancer. The risk of Alzheimer’s disease was lowest in survivors of smoking related cancers, and was not primarily explained by survival bias. This pattern for cancer is similar to that seen in Parkinson’s disease and suggests an inverse association between cancer and neurodegeneration.
doi:10.1136/bmj.e1442
PMCID: PMC3647385  PMID: 22411920
6.  Diagnosis and treatment of dementia: 1. Risk assessment and primary prevention of Alzheimer disease 
Background
In addition to nonmodifiable genetic risk factors, potentially modifiable factors such as hypertension, hyperlipidemia and environmental exposures have been identified as risk factors for Alzheimer disease. In this article, we provide physicians with practical guidance on risk assessment and primary prevention of Alzheimer disease based on recommendations from the Third Canadian Consensus Conference on the Diagnosis and Treatment of Dementia, held in March 2006.
Methods
We developed evidence-based guidelines using systematic literature searches, with specific criteria for study selection and quality assessment, and a clear and transparent decision-making process. We selected studies published from January 1996 to December 2005 that met the following criteria: dementia (all-cause, Alzheimer disease or vascular dementia) as the outcome; longitudinal cohort study; study population broadly reflective of Canadian demographics; and genetic risk factors and general risk factors (e.g., hypertension, education, occupation and chemical exposure) identified. We graded the strength of evidence using the criteria of the Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care.
Results
Of 3424 articles on potentially modifiable risk factors for dementia, 1719 met our inclusion criteria; 60 were deemed to be of good or fair quality. Of 1721 articles on genetic risk factors, 62 that met our inclusion criteria were deemed to be of good or fair quality. On the basis of evidence from these articles, we made recommendations for the risk assessment and primary prevention of Alzheimer disease. For the primary prevention of Alzheimer's disease, there is good evidence for controlling vascular risk factors, especially hypertension (grade A), and weak or insufficient evidence for manipulation of lifestyle factors and prescribing of medications (grade C). There is good evidence to avoid estrogens and high-dose (> 400 IU/d) of vitamin E for this purpose (grade E). Genetic counselling and testing may be offered to at-risk individuals with an apparent autosomal dominant inheritance (grade B). Screening for the apolipoprotein E genotype in asymptomatic individuals in the general population is not recommended (grade E).
Interpretation
Despite the personal and societal burden of dementia, our understanding of genetic predisposition to dementias and the contribution of other risk factors remains limited. More importantly, there are few data to explain the overall risks and benefits of prevention strategies or their impact of risk modification.
Articles to date in this seriesChertkow H. Diagnosis and treatment of dementia: Introduction. Introducing a series based on the Third Canadian Consensus Conference on the Diagnosis and Treatment of Dementia. CMAJ 2008;178:316-21.
doi:10.1503/cmaj.070796
PMCID: PMC2244657  PMID: 18299540
7.  Exploring Genetic Counselors’ Perceptions of and Attitudes Towards Schizophrenia 
Public health genomics  2009;13(1):21-26.
Schizophrenia is a common complex condition, for which no genetic testing is yet clinically available. Genetic counseling for psychiatric disorders is viewed by genetic counselors as a growth area, and to meet any increase in demand it is important to understand existing context. Thus, we surveyed general practice members of the National Society of Genetic Counselors, to examine perceptions and attitudes relating to schizophrenia. A total of 136 genetic counselors completed the survey, of whom 50% were engaged in general practice roles and therefore eligible to participate. Of these 40% reported “rarely” or “never” asking about psychiatric illness when taking a family history. Some respondents expressed concern that discussing genetics of schizophrenia and providing risk assessment with families may be more confusing or worrisome than helpful. Many counselors reported that patients feel frustrated with the inability of genetic counselors to provide individual risk calculations. It appears that genetic counselors are reluctant to ask patients about psychiatric illness, and are concerned that their services might not be helpful in the context of schizophrenia.
doi:10.1159/000210096
PMCID: PMC3706330  PMID: 19321939 CAMSID: cams3086
genetic counseling; psychiatric; schizophrenia; risk assessment; family history
8.  Estimating and disclosing the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease: challenges, controversies and future directions 
Future neurology  2010;5(4):501-517.
With Alzheimer’s disease increasing in prevalence and public awareness, more people are becoming interested in learning their chances of developing this condition. Disclosing Alzheimer’s disease risk has been discouraged because of the limited predictive value of available tests, lack of prevention and treatment options, and concerns regarding potential psychological and social harms. However, challenges to this status quo include the availability of direct-to-consumer health risk information (e.g., genetic susceptibility tests), as well as a growing literature suggesting that people seeking risk information for Alzheimer’s disease through formal education and counseling protocols generally find it useful and do not experience adverse effects. This paper reviews current and potential methods of risk assessment for Alzheimer’s disease, discusses the process and impact of disclosing risk to interested patients and consumers, and considers the practical and ethical challenges in this emerging area. Anticipated future directions are addressed.
doi:10.2217/fnl.10.31
PMCID: PMC2941213  PMID: 20856693
Alzheimer’s disease; genetic testing; risk assessment; risk communication
9.  Cholinesterase Inhibitors and Hospitalization for Bradycardia: A Population-Based Study 
PLoS Medicine  2009;6(9):e1000157.
Laura Park-Wyllie and colleagues examined the health records of more than 1.4 million older adults and show that initiation of cholinesterase inhibitor therapy is associated with a more than doubling of the risk of hospitalization for bradycardia.
Background
Cholinesterase inhibitors are commonly used to treat dementia. These drugs enhance the effects of acetylcholine, and reports suggest they may precipitate bradycardia in some patients. We aimed to examine the association between use of cholinesterase inhibitors and hospitalization for bradycardia.
Methods and Findings
We examined the health care records of more than 1.4 million older adults using a case-time-control design, allowing each individual to serve as his or her own control. Case patients were residents of Ontario, Canada, aged 67 y or older hospitalized for bradycardia between January 1, 2003 and March 31, 2008. Control patients (3∶1) were not hospitalized for bradycardia, and were matched to the corresponding case on age, sex, and a disease risk index. All patients had received cholinesterase inhibitor therapy in the 9 mo preceding the index hospitalization. We identified 1,009 community-dwelling older persons hospitalized for bradycardia within 9 mo of using a cholinesterase inhibitor. Of these, 161 cases informed the matched analysis of discordant pairs. Of these, 17 (11%) required a pacemaker during hospitalization, and six (4%) died prior to discharge. After adjusting for temporal changes in drug utilization, hospitalization for bradycardia was associated with recent initiation of a cholinesterase inhibitor (adjusted odds ratio [OR] 2.13, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.29–3.51). The risk was similar among individuals with pre-existing cardiac disease (adjusted OR 2.25, 95% CI 1.18–4.28) and those receiving negative chronotropic drugs (adjusted OR 2.34, 95% CI 1.16–4.71). We found no such association when we replicated the analysis using proton pump inhibitors as a neutral exposure. Despite hospitalization for bradycardia, more than half of the patients (78 of 138 cases [57%]) who survived to discharge subsequently resumed cholinesterase inhibitor therapy.
Conclusions
Among older patients, initiation of cholinesterase inhibitor therapy was associated with a more than doubling of the risk of hospitalization for bradycardia. Resumption of therapy following discharge was common, suggesting that the cardiovascular toxicity of cholinesterase inhibitors is underappreciated by clinicians.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Alzheimer disease and other forms of dementia principally affect people aged over 65. These conditions result in confusion, long term memory loss, irritability, and mood swings. As the population of developed countries ages, the prevalence of dementia is expected to increase significantly. It is forecast that the proportion of people with dementia in the US will quadruple by 2045.
A common treatment for Alzheimer disease is a class of drug called an acetylcholinesterase inhibitor or cholinesterase inhibitor. These include donepezil (brand name Aricept), rivastigmine (marketed as Exelon and Exelon Patch), and galantamine (branded Razadyne).
The benefit of taking cholinesterase inhibitors is generally small and they cannot reverse the effects of dementia. In about 50% of patients they delay the worsening of symptoms for between six months and a year, although a small number of patients may benefit more. They can have unpleasant side effects, which may include diarrhoea and muscle cramps.
Why Was This Study Done?
Existing evidence is inconclusive on whether cholinesterase inhibitors increase the risk of bradycardia, an abnormally slow resting heart rate of below 60 beats a minute, which can cause fatigue, dizziness, fainting, palpitations, shortness of breath, or death. In this paper, the authors use routinely collected health care data to investigate whether an older person taking a cholinesterase inhibitor is at increased risk of bradycardia.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
They began by supposing that cholinesterase inhibitors might induce bradycardia soon after a patient first began to take them. To investigate this, they obtained health care data on 1.4 million patients aged 67 or over in Ontario, Canada. They identified 161 patients who had visited a hospital for bradycardia and who had previously taken a cholinesterase inhibitor only within specific periods of time. They found that 139 had taken a cholinesterase inhibitor within the previous three months compared with 22 who had stopped taking it at least six months before.
They compared these cases with up to three “control” patients who matched each of the initial “case” group of 161 patients by age, sex, and risk of bradycardia on the basis of their general health. None of the 466 controls had visited a hospital for bradycardia by the “index date,” that is, the date of hospitalization of the case patient they matched. The researchers found 349 of the control patients had begun to take a cholinesterase inhibitor in the three months prior to the index date, compared with 117 who had stopped taking it at least six months before. A statistical analysis of these data showed that recent initiation of cholinesterase inhibitors was associated with approximately a doubling of the risk of hospitalization for bradycardia.
The authors repeated their procedure to see whether another class of drug, proton pump inhibitors, had a similar effect. As they had expected, it did not. They repeated the analysis for patients taking into account other drugs that slow the heart rate and found that their increased risk of bradycardia when taking a cholinesterase inhibitor persisted. The increase in risk was also similar in patients with pre-existing heart problems.
The researchers' data also showed that, excluding patients who while in the hospital had a pacemaker fitted to control their heart rate, over half of the patients released from hospital started taking a cholinesterase inhibitor again. Of these, a few returned to hospital with bradycardia within 100 days.
What Do These Findings Mean?
Recent guidelines suggest that doctors should not prescribe cholinesterase inhibitors for dementia patients as a matter of course, but weigh the potential risks and benefits. This paper provides evidence of an additional risk, of which at least some doctors are unaware. It was not possible to compare risk for different cholinesterase inhibitors because most patients took donepezil.
A population-based study like this cannot prove that cholinesterase inhibitors cause bradycardia. The authors used routinely collected data and so did not have information on all relevant risk factors, and thus there remains a possibility of bias due to unmeasured factors. In addition the authors had to make assumptions, for instance that patients took the drugs prescribed for them. They also considered only diagnoses of bradycardia made by a hospital doctor and not those made elsewhere, which means the incidence of bradycardia may have been underestimated. A strength of the study is the use of a case-time-control design, which has the advantage of reducing bias due to the different health conditions and lifestyle of individual patients, and also bias due to factors changing over time.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000157.
Wikipedia contains information on Alzheimer disease (note that Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
Information on bradycardia and its causes can be found in Wikipedia (note that Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
The UKs National Health Service provides information on dementia, including symptoms, causes, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention
MedlinePlus provides US-based health information (in English and Spanish)
The US National Institute on Aging provides information on health, relevant to older people, including Alzheimer Disease and dementia (in English and Spanish)
The US Alzheimers Association contains useful information on the disease, including on medication
The Public Health Agency of Canada website provides information on senior health (in English and French)
The UK-based Alzheimers Society provides advice on caring for people with dementia
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000157
PMCID: PMC2742897  PMID: 19787032
10.  Cardiovascular and Cerebrovascular Events in the Randomized, Controlled Alzheimer's Disease Anti-Inflammatory Prevention Trial (ADAPT) 
PLoS Clinical Trials  2006;1(7):e33.
Objectives:
The Alzheimer's Disease Anti-inflammatory Prevention Trial (ADAPT) was designed to evaluate the conventional NSAID naproxen sodium and the selective COX-2 inhibitor celecoxib for primary prevention of Alzheimer's dementia (AD). On 17 December 2004, after the Adenoma Prevention with Celecoxib (APC) trial reported increased cardiovascular risks with celecoxib, the ADAPT Steering Committee suspended treatment and enrollment. This paper reports on cardiovascular and cerebrovascular events in ADAPT.
Design:
ADAPT is a randomized, placebo-controlled, parallel chemoprevention trial with 1–46 mo of follow-up.
Setting:
The trial was conducted at six field sites in the United States: Baltimore, Maryland; Boston, Massachusetts; Rochester, New York; Seattle, Washington; Sun City, Arizona; and Tampa, Florida.
Participants:
The 2,528 participants were aged 70 y and older with a family history of AD.
Interventions:
Study treatments were celecoxib (200 mg b.i.d.), naproxen sodium (220 mg b.i.d.), and placebo.
Outcome measures:
Outcome measures were deaths, along with nonfatal myocardial infarction (MI), stroke, congestive heart failure (CHF), transient ischemic attack (TIA), and antihypertensive treatment recorded from structured interviews at scheduled intervals. Cox proportional hazards regression was used to analyze these events individually and in several composites.
Results:
Counts (with 3-y incidence) of participants who experienced cardiovascular or cerebrovascular death, MI, stroke, CHF, or TIA in the celecoxib-, naproxen-, and placebo-treated groups were 28/717 (5.54%), 40/713 (8.25%), and 37/1070 (5.68%), respectively. This yielded a hazard ratio (95% confidence interval [CI]) for celecoxib of 1.10 (0.67–1.79) and for naproxen of 1.63 (1.04–2.55). Antihypertensive treatment was initiated in 160/440 (47.43%), 147/427 (45.00%), and 164/644 (34.08%). This yielded hazard ratios (CIs) of 1.56 for celecoxib (1.26–1.94) and 1.40 for naproxen (1.12–1.75).
Conclusions:
For celecoxib, ADAPT data do not show the same level of risk as those of the APC trial. The data for naproxen, although not definitive, are suggestive of increased cardiovascular and cerebrovascular risk.
Editorial Commentary
Background: Evidence from observational studies suggests that people taking certain nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are at lower risk of developing Alzheimer's disease. However, in order to reliably find out whether NSAIDs reduce the risk of Alzheimer's, it is important to perform a properly designed randomized trial. Such a trial, ADAPT, was sponsored by the United States National Institute on Aging, and the study started recruitment in 2001. The trial involved three treatment arms: naproxen (one type of NSAID), celecoxib (another type of NSAID, but one that specifically inhibits an enzyme called COX-2), and placebo, acting as a control. It was planned that 2,625 participants would be recruited and that the primary outcome of interest was incidence of Alzheimer's disease in the three treatment arms; the trial would run for 7 y. However, this trial was terminated early, a decision based in part on information from other studies that demonstrated an increased risk of certain harms, such as heart attacks and strokes, in people taking celecoxib and other types of COX-2 inhibitors. Therefore meaningful data were not available at the time on the study's primary outcome (prevention of Alzheimer's disease). However, data about the chance of these harms are available from the ADAPT results, and these results are presented here.
What this trial shows: The investigators compared frequency of particular types of harm in the treatment arms: heart attack, stroke, congestive heart failure (CHF), and transient ischemic attack (TIA). For each individual type of event, some were more likely in people treated with celecoxib compared with placebo, but others were not. When considering people taking naproxen, all four types of adverse events were more likely to occur in the treatment group as compared to placebo. The investigators then combined data from all four types of harm together, and here they found that the overall risk in people taking celecoxib was higher than for people taking placebo, but that this was not statistically significant, so it could have been due to chance alone. When considering naproxen as compared with placebo, the researchers saw an approximately 60% increase in risk for all four harms combined, and this result was statistically significant. The death rate in people taking either celecoxib or naproxen was higher than for those taking placebo, but this was not statistically significant, and therefore could have been due to chance.
Strengths and limitations: Strengths of this study include the randomization procedures, which used a distributed computer system to assign patients to treatment arms (minimizing the chance of bias), blinding of patients to their treatment assignment, and blinding of the committee reviewing deaths and safety reports to treatment assignment. One limitation is that although the trial was large and appropriately powered for the main outcome (prevention of Alzheimer's disease), the number of safety events reported here were small and the trial was not primarily designed to examine safety. Further, participants eligible to join this trial were required to have a family history of Alzheimer's disease, so it is possible that their risk factors are slightly different from the general population.
Contribution to the evidence: The cardiovascular safety of NSAID's, including COX-2 inhibitors, is an intensely debated topic. Very few published data exist on the long-term safety of celecoxib as compared with placebo, although there are a number of as-yet-unpublished studies. These data on harms provided by ADAPT provide important results that should be incorporated into future meta-analyses. Such meta-analyses will give a more rigorous and reliable assessment of the safety of the drugs studied here.
doi:10.1371/journal.pctr.0010033
PMCID: PMC1851724  PMID: 17111043
11.  Risk perception after genetic counseling in patients with increased risk of cancer 
Background
Counselees are more aware of genetics and seek information, reassurance, screening and genetic testing. Risk counseling is a key component of genetic counseling process helping patients to achieve a realistic view for their own personal risk and therefore adapt to the medical, psychological and familial implications of disease and to encourage the patient to make informed choices [1,2].
The aim of this study was to conceptualize risk perception and anxiety about cancer in individuals attending to genetic counseling.
Methods
The questionnaire study measured risk perception and anxiety about cancer at three time points: before and one week after initial genetic counseling and one year after completed genetic investigations. Eligibility criteria were designed to include only index patients without a previous genetic consultation in the family. A total of 215 individuals were included. Data was collected during three years period.
Results
Before genetic counseling all of the unaffected participants subjectively estimated their risk as higher than their objective risk. Participants with a similar risk as the population overestimated their risk most. All risk groups estimated the risk for children's/siblings to be lower than their own. The benefits of preventive surveillance program were well understood among unaffected participants.
The difference in subjective risk perception before and directly after genetic counseling was statistically significantly lower in all risk groups. Difference in risk perception for children as well as for population was also statistically significant. Experienced anxiety about developing cancer in the unaffected subjects was lower after genetic counseling compared to baseline in all groups. Anxiety about cancer had clear correlation to perceived risk of cancer before and one year after genetic investigations.
The affected participants overestimated their children's risk as well as risk for anyone in population. Difference in risk perception for children/siblings as for the general population was significant between the first and second measurement time points. Anxiety about developing cancer again among affected participants continued to be high throughout this investigation.
Conclusion
The participant's accuracy in risk perception was poor, especially in low risk individuals before genetic counseling. There was a general trend towards more accurate estimation in all risk groups after genetic counseling. The importance of preventive programs was well understood. Cancer anxiety was prevalent and associated with risk perception, but decreased after genetic counseling.
[1] National Society of Genetic Counselors (2005), Genetic Counseling as a Profession. Available at (accessed November 25th 2007)
[2] Julian-Reynier C., Welkenhuysen M-, Hagoel L., Decruyenaere M., Hopwood P. (2003) Risk communication strategies: state of the art and effectiveness in the context of cancer genetic services. Eur J of Human Genetics 11, 725-736.
doi:10.1186/1897-4287-7-15
PMCID: PMC2744911  PMID: 19698175
12.  Expanding Disease Definitions in Guidelines and Expert Panel Ties to Industry: A Cross-sectional Study of Common Conditions in the United States 
PLoS Medicine  2013;10(8):e1001500.
Background
Financial ties between health professionals and industry may unduly influence professional judgments and some researchers have suggested that widening disease definitions may be one driver of over-diagnosis, bringing potentially unnecessary labeling and harm. We aimed to identify guidelines in which disease definitions were changed, to assess whether any proposed changes would increase the numbers of individuals considered to have the disease, whether potential harms of expanding disease definitions were investigated, and the extent of members' industry ties.
Methods and Findings
We undertook a cross-sectional study of the most recent publication between 2000 and 2013 from national and international guideline panels making decisions about definitions or diagnostic criteria for common conditions in the United States. We assessed whether proposed changes widened or narrowed disease definitions, rationales offered, mention of potential harms of those changes, and the nature and extent of disclosed ties between members and pharmaceutical or device companies.
Of 16 publications on 14 common conditions, ten proposed changes widening and one narrowing definitions. For five, impact was unclear. Widening fell into three categories: creating “pre-disease”; lowering diagnostic thresholds; and proposing earlier or different diagnostic methods. Rationales included standardising diagnostic criteria and new evidence about risks for people previously considered to not have the disease. No publication included rigorous assessment of potential harms of proposed changes.
Among 14 panels with disclosures, the average proportion of members with industry ties was 75%. Twelve were chaired by people with ties. For members with ties, the median number of companies to which they had ties was seven. Companies with ties to the highest proportions of members were active in the relevant therapeutic area. Limitations arise from reliance on only disclosed ties, and exclusion of conditions too broad to enable analysis of single panel publications.
Conclusions
For the common conditions studied, a majority of panels proposed changes to disease definitions that increased the number of individuals considered to have the disease, none reported rigorous assessment of potential harms of that widening, and most had a majority of members disclosing financial ties to pharmaceutical companies.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Health professionals generally base their diagnosis of physical and mental disorders among their patients on disease definitions and diagnostic thresholds that are drawn up by expert panels and published as statements or as part of clinical practice guidelines. These disease definitions and diagnostic thresholds are reviewed and updated in response to changes in disease detection methods, treatments, medical knowledge, and, in the case of mental illness, changes in cultural norms. Sometimes, the review process widens disease definitions and lowers diagnostic thresholds. Such changes can be beneficial. For example, they might ensure that life-threatening conditions are diagnosed early when they are still treatable. But the widening of disease definitions can also lead to over-diagnosis—the diagnosis of a condition in a healthy individual that will never cause any symptoms and won't lead to an early death. Over-diagnosis can unnecessarily label people as ill, harm healthy individuals by exposing them to treatments they do not need, and waste resources that could be used to treat or prevent “genuine” illness.
Why Was This Study Done?
In recent years, evidence for widespread financial and non-financial ties between pharmaceutical companies and the health professionals involved in writing clinical practice guidelines has increased, and concern that these links may influence professional judgments has grown. As a result, a 2011 report from the US Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommended that, whenever possible, guideline developers should not have conflicts of interest, that a minority of the panel members involved in guideline development should have conflicts of interest, and that the chairs of these panels should be free of conflicts. Much less is known, however, about the ties between industry and the health professionals involved in reviewing disease definitions and whether these ties might in some way contribute to over-diagnosis. In this cross-sectional study (an investigation that takes a snapshot of a situation at a single time point), the researchers identify panels that have recently made decisions about definitions or diagnostic thresholds for conditions that are common in the US and describe the industry ties among the panel members and the changes in disease definitions proposed by the panels.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers identified 16 publications in which expert panels proposed changes to the disease definitions and diagnostic criteria for 14 conditions that are common in the US such as hypertension (high blood pressure) and Alzheimer disease. The proposed changes widened the disease definition for ten diseases, narrowed it for one disease, and had an unclear impact for five diseases. Reasons included in the publications for changing disease definitions included new evidence of risk for people previously considered normal (pre-hypertension) and the emergence of new biomarkers, tests, or treatments (Alzheimer disease). Only six of the panels mentioned possible harms of the proposed changes and none appeared to rigorously assess the downsides of expanding definitions. Of the 15 panels involved in the publications (one panel produced two publications), 12 included members who disclosed financial ties to multiple companies. Notably, the commonest industrial ties among these panels were to companies marketing drugs for the disease being considered by that panel. On average, 75% of panel members disclosed industry ties (range 0% to 100%) to a median of seven companies each. Moreover, similar proportions of panel members disclosed industry ties in publications released before and after the 2011 IOM report.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings show that, for the conditions studied, most panels considering disease definitions and diagnostic criteria proposed changes that widened disease definitions and that financial ties with pharmaceutical companies with direct interests in the therapeutic area covered by the panel were common among panel members. Because this study does not include a comparison group, these findings do not establish a causal link between industry ties and proposals to change disease definitions. Moreover, because the study concentrates on a subset of common diseases in the US setting, the generalizability of these findings is limited. Despite these and other study limitations, these findings provide new information about the ties between industry and influential medical professionals and raise questions about the current processes of disease definition. Future research, the researchers suggest, should investigate how disease definitions change over time, how much money panel members receive from industry, and how panel proposals affect the potential market of sponsors. Finally it should aim to design new processes for reviewing disease definitions that are free from potential conflicts of interest.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001500.
A PLOS Medicine Research Article by Knüppel et al. assesses the representation of ethical issues in general clinical practice guidelines on dementia care
Wikipedia has a page on medical diagnosis (note: Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
An article on over-diagnosis by two of the study authors is available; an international conference on preventing over-diagnosis will take place this September
The 2011 US Institute of Medicine report Clinical Practice Guidelines We Can Trust is available
A PLOS Medicine Essay by Lisa Cosgrove and Sheldon Krimsky discusses the financial ties with industry of panel members involved in the preparation of the latest revision of the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), which provides standard criteria for the classification of mental disorders
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001500
PMCID: PMC3742441  PMID: 23966841
13.  Too Many Referrals of Low-risk Women for BRCA1/2 Genetic Services by Family Physicians 
Increasing availability and public awareness of BRCA1/2 genetic testing will increase women’s self-referrals to genetic services. The objective of this study was to examine whether patient characteristics influence family physicians’ (FPs’) referral decisions when a patient requests BRCA1/2 genetic testing. FPs (n = 284) completed a web-based survey in 2006 to assess their attitudes and practices related to using genetics in their clinical practice. Using a 2×2×2 factorial design we tested the effects of a hypothetical patient’s race, level of worry and insurance status on FPs’ decisions to refer her for BRCA1/2 testing. The patient was not appropriate for referral based on USPSTF guidelines. No patient characteristics were associated with FPs’ referral decisions. Although referral was not indicated, only 8% did not refer to genetic services, 92% referred for genetic services, and 50% referred to genetic counseling. FPs regarded it unlikely that the patient carried a mutation. However, 65% of FPs believed if they refused to refer for genetic services it would harm their relationship with the patient. Despite scarce and costly genetic services FPs were likely to inappropriately refer a low-risk patient who requested BRCA1/2 testing. The implications of this inappropriate referral on women’s screening behavior, genetic services, and health care costs are unknown. Clinicians and patients could benefit from education about appropriate use of genetic services so that both are more comfortable with a decision against referral.
doi:10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-07-2879
PMCID: PMC2772063  PMID: 18990739
BRCA1/2 genetic services; physician referral; family physicians; evidence-based medicine; practice guidelines
14.  Real world experience with cancer genetic counseling via telephone 
Familial Cancer  2010;9(4):681-689.
One barrier to genetic testing is the lack of access to genetic counselors. We provided cancer genetic counseling via telephone, through a pilot project for employees of a national health insurer, Aetna, Inc. Knowledge transfer, behavioral intentions, and patient satisfaction were assessed by survey after genetic counseling. Aetna sent an individual email to its employees nationwide notifying them of the availability of a new telephone genetic counseling and testing program and providing a link to take a brief screening questionnaire to determine whether they may be at risk of hereditary cancer. Employees completing the questionnaire received immediate feedback regarding whether there appeared to be a risk of hereditary cancer. If so, they were invited to schedule a telephonic genetic counseling session. After the session, respondents completed an online survey. 397 individuals completed the questionnaire. 39 proceeded with telephone genetic counseling, and 22 completed the follow-up survey, including all 11 women with family history warranting genetic testing. One third reported prior discussion about inherited cancer risk with their primary care provider (PCP); 12% were referred to a geneticist; 20% had an accurate perception of their own cancer risk. After counseling, 94% reported understanding their risk for cancer and 87% were aware of available risk-reduction strategies. 87% of high-risk respondents intended to engage in risk-management interventions. 93% reported high satisfaction. 66% indicated they would not have pursued genetic counseling if it had not been available by phone. Results suggest telephone counseling is a viable option for increasing access to genetic experts. In this sample, telephone counseling increases knowledge of cancer risk, motivates intention to change health-related behaviors, and elicits a high satisfaction level. Consequently, Aetna now offers telephone cancer genetic counseling nationwide as a covered benefit.
doi:10.1007/s10689-010-9369-y
PMCID: PMC3303219  PMID: 20799063
BRCA 1/2; Cancer genetic counseling; Cancer risk assessment; Genetic testing; Hereditary cancer; Telephone genetic counseling
15.  Variant of TREM2 Associated with the Risk of Alzheimer’s Disease 
The New England journal of medicine  2012;368(2):107-116.
BACKGROUND
Sequence variants, including the ε4 allele of apolipoprotein E, have been associated with the risk of the common late-onset form of Alzheimer’s disease. Few rare variants affecting the risk of late-onset Alzheimer’s disease have been found.
METHODS
We obtained the genome sequences of 2261 Icelanders and identified sequence variants that were likely to affect protein function. We imputed these variants into the genomes of patients with Alzheimer’s disease and control participants and then tested for an association with Alzheimer’s disease. We performed replication tests using case–control series from the United States, Norway, the Netherlands, and Germany. We also tested for a genetic association with cognitive function in a population of unaffected elderly persons.
RESULTS
A rare missense mutation (rs75932628-T) in the gene encoding the triggering receptor expressed on myeloid cells 2 (TREM2), which was predicted to result in an R47H substitution, was found to confer a significant risk of Alzheimer’s disease in Iceland (odds ratio, 2.92; 95% confidence interval [CI], 2.09 to 4.09; P = 3.42×10−10). The mutation had a frequency of 0.46% in controls 85 years of age or older. We observed the association in additional sample sets (odds ratio, 2.90; 95% CI, 2.16 to 3.91; P = 2.1×10−12 in combined discovery and replication samples). We also found that carriers of rs75932628-T between the ages of 80 and 100 years without Alzheimer’s disease had poorer cognitive function than noncarriers (P = 0.003).
CONCLUSIONS
Our findings strongly implicate variant TREM2 in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s disease. Given the reported antiinflammatory role of TREM2 in the brain, the R47H substitution may lead to an increased predisposition to Alzheimer’s disease through impaired containment of inflammatory processes. (Funded by the National Institute on Aging and others.)
doi:10.1056/NEJMoa1211103
PMCID: PMC3677583  PMID: 23150908
16.  Primary Prevention of Gestational Diabetes Mellitus and Large-for-Gestational-Age Newborns by Lifestyle Counseling: A Cluster-Randomized Controlled Trial 
PLoS Medicine  2011;8(5):e1001036.
In a cluster-randomized trial, Riitta Luoto and colleagues find that counseling on diet and activity can reduce the birthweight of babies born to women at risk of developing gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM), but fail to find an effect on GDM.
Background
Our objective was to examine whether gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) or newborns' high birthweight can be prevented by lifestyle counseling in pregnant women at high risk of GDM.
Method and Findings
We conducted a cluster-randomized trial, the NELLI study, in 14 municipalities in Finland, where 2,271 women were screened by oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT) at 8–12 wk gestation. Euglycemic (n = 399) women with at least one GDM risk factor (body mass index [BMI] ≥25 kg/m2, glucose intolerance or newborn's macrosomia (≥4,500 g) in any earlier pregnancy, family history of diabetes, age ≥40 y) were included. The intervention included individual intensified counseling on physical activity and diet and weight gain at five antenatal visits. Primary outcomes were incidence of GDM as assessed by OGTT (maternal outcome) and newborns' birthweight adjusted for gestational age (neonatal outcome). Secondary outcomes were maternal weight gain and the need for insulin treatment during pregnancy. Adherence to the intervention was evaluated on the basis of changes in physical activity (weekly metabolic equivalent task (MET) minutes) and diet (intake of total fat, saturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids, saccharose, and fiber). Multilevel analyses took into account cluster, maternity clinic, and nurse level influences in addition to age, education, parity, and prepregnancy BMI. 15.8% (34/216) of women in the intervention group and 12.4% (22/179) in the usual care group developed GDM (absolute effect size 1.36, 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.71–2.62, p = 0.36). Neonatal birthweight was lower in the intervention than in the usual care group (absolute effect size −133 g, 95% CI −231 to −35, p = 0.008) as was proportion of large-for-gestational-age (LGA) newborns (26/216, 12.1% versus 34/179, 19.7%, p = 0.042). Women in the intervention group increased their intake of dietary fiber (adjusted coefficient 1.83, 95% CI 0.30–3.25, p = 0.023) and polyunsaturated fatty acids (adjusted coefficient 0.37, 95% CI 0.16–0.57, p<0.001), decreased their intake of saturated fatty acids (adjusted coefficient −0.63, 95% CI −1.12 to −0.15, p = 0.01) and intake of saccharose (adjusted coefficient −0.83, 95% CI −1.55 to −0.11, p  =  0.023), and had a tendency to a smaller decrease in MET minutes/week for at least moderate intensity activity (adjusted coefficient 91, 95% CI −37 to 219, p = 0.17) than women in the usual care group. In subgroup analysis, adherent women in the intervention group (n = 55/229) had decreased risk of GDM (27.3% versus 33.0%, p = 0.43) and LGA newborns (7.3% versus 19.5%, p = 0.03) compared to women in the usual care group.
Conclusions
The intervention was effective in controlling birthweight of the newborns, but failed to have an effect on maternal GDM.
Trial registration
Current Controlled Trials ISRCTN33885819
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) is diabetes that is first diagnosed during pregnancy. Like other types of diabetes, it is characterized by high levels of sugar (glucose) in the blood. Blood-sugar levels are normally controlled by insulin, a hormone that the pancreas releases when blood-sugar levels rise after meals. Hormonal changes during pregnancy and the baby's growth demands increase a pregnant woman's insulin needs and, if her pancreas cannot make enough insulin, GDM develops. Risk factors for GDM, which occurs in 2%–14% of pregnant women, include a high body-mass index (a measure of body fat), excessive weight gain or low physical activity during pregnancy, high dietary intake of polyunsaturated fats, glucose intolerance (an indicator of diabetes) or the birth of a large baby in a previous pregnancy, and a family history of diabetes. GDM is associated with an increased rate of cesarean sections, induced deliveries, birth complications, and large-for-gestational-age (LGA) babies (gestation is the time during which the baby develops within the mother). GDM, which can often be controlled by diet and exercise, usually disappears after pregnancy but increases a woman's subsequent risk of developing diabetes.
Why Was This Study Done?
Although lifestyle changes can be used to control GDM, it is not known whether similar changes can prevent GDM developing (“primary prevention”). In this cluster-randomized controlled trial, the researchers investigate whether individual intensified counseling on physical activity, diet, and weight gain integrated into routine maternity care visits can prevent the development of GDM and the occurrence of LGA babies among newborns. In a cluster-randomized controlled trial, groups of patients rather than individual patients are randomly assigned to receive alternative interventions, and the outcomes in different “clusters” are compared. In this trial, each cluster is a municipality in the Pirkanmaa region of Finland.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers enrolled 399 women, each of whom had a normal blood glucose level at 8–12 weeks gestation but at least one risk factor for GDM. Women in the intervention municipalities received intensified counseling on physical activity at 8–12 weeks' gestation, dietary counseling at 16–18 weeks' gestation, and further physical activity and dietary counseling at each subsequent antenatal visits. Women in the control municipalities received some dietary but little physical activity counseling as part of their usual care. 23.3% and 20.2% of women in the intervention and usual care groups, respectively, developed GDM, a nonstatistically significant difference (that is, a difference that could have occurred by chance). However, the average birthweight and the proportion of LGA babies were both significantly lower in the intervention group than in the usual care group. Food frequency questionnaires completed by the women indicated that, on average, those in the intervention group increased their intake of dietary fiber and polyunsaturated fatty acids and decreased their intake of saturated fatty acids and sucrose as instructed during counseling, The amount of moderate physical activity also tended to decrease less as pregnancy proceeded in the intervention group than in usual care group. Finally, compared to the usual care group, significantly fewer of the 24% of women in the intervention group who actually met dietary and physical activity targets (“adherent” women) developed GDM.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that intensified counseling on diet and physical activity is effective in controlling the birthweight of babies born to women at risk of developing GDM and encourages at least some of them to alter their lifestyle. However, the findings fail to show that the intervention reduces the risk of GDM because of the limited power of the study. The power of a study—the probability that it will achieve a statistically significant result—depends on the study's size and on the likely effect size of the intervention. Before starting this study, the researchers calculated that they would need 420 participants to see a statistically significant difference between the groups if their intervention reduced GDM incidence by 40%. This estimated effect size was probably optimistic and therefore the study lacked power. Nevertheless, the analyses performed among adherent women suggest that lifestyle changes might be a way to prevent GDM and so larger studies should now be undertaken to test this potential primary prevention intervention.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001036.
The US National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases provides information for patients on diabetes and on gestational diabetes (in English and Spanish)
The UK National Health Service Choices website also provides information for patients on diabetes and on gestational diabetes, including links to other useful resources
The MedlinePlus Encyclopedia has pages on diabetes and on gestational diabetes; MedlinePlus provides links to additional resources on diabetes and on gestational diabetes (in English and Spanish)
More information on this trial of primary prevention of GDM is available
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001036
PMCID: PMC3096610  PMID: 21610860
17.  Family History of Alzheimer’s Disease and Hippocampal Structure in Healthy People 
The American journal of psychiatry  2010;167(11):1399-1406.
Objective
Structural brain changes appear years before the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, the leading cause of dementia late in life. Determining risk factors for such presymptomatic brain changes may assist in identifying candidates for future prevention treatment trials. In addition to the e4 allele of the apolipoprotein E gene (APOE-4), the major known genetic risk factor, a family history of Alzheimer’s disease also increases the risk to develop the disease, reflecting yet unidentified genetic and, perhaps, nongenetic risks. The authors investigated the influence of APOE-4 genotype and family history risks on cortical thickness in medial temporal lobe subregions among volunteers without cognitive impairment.
Method
High-resolution magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and a cortical unfolding method were performed on 26 subjects (APOE-4 carriers: N =13; noncarriers: N =13) with at least one first-degree relative with Alzheimer’s disease and 25 subjects (APOE-4 carriers: N =12; noncarriers: N =13) without this risk factor. All subjects (mean age: 62.3 years [SD=10.7]; range=38–86 years) were cognitively healthy.
Results
Family history of Alzheimer’s disease and APOE-4 status were associated with a thinner cortex in the entorhinal region, subiculum, and adjacent medial temporal lobe subfields. Although these associations were additive, family history of Alzheimer’s disease explained a greater proportion of the unique variance in cortical thickness than APOE-4 carrier status.
Conclusions
APOE-4 carrier status and family history of Alzheimer’s disease are independently associated with and contribute additively to hippocampal cortical thinning.
doi:10.1176/appi.ajp.2010.09111575
PMCID: PMC3086166  PMID: 20686185
18.  Age-Specific Incidence Rates for Dementia and Alzheimer Disease in NIA-LOAD/NCRAD and EFIGA Families 
JAMA neurology  2014;71(3):315-323.
IMPORTANCE
Late-onset Alzheimer disease (LOAD), defined as onset of symptoms after age 65 years, is the most common form of dementia. Few reports investigate incidence rates in large family-based studies in which the participants were selected for family history of LOAD.
OBJECTIVE
To determine the incidence rates of dementia and LOAD in unaffected members in the National Institute on Aging Genetics Initiative for Late-Onset Alzheimer Disease/National Cell Repository for Alzheimer Disease (NIA-LOAD/NCRAD) and Estudio Familiar de Influencia Genetica en Alzheimer (EFIGA) family studies.
DESIGN, SETTING, AND PARTICIPANTS
Families with 2 or more affected siblings who had a clinical or pathological diagnosis of LOAD were recruited as a part of the NIA-LOAD/NCRAD Family Study. A cohort of Caribbean Hispanics with familial LOAD was recruited in a different study at the Taub Institute for Research on Alzheimer’s Disease and the Aging Brain in New York and from clinics in the Dominican Republic as part of the EFIGA study.
MAIN OUTCOMES AND MEASURES
Age-specific incidence rates of LOAD were estimated in the unaffected family members in the NIA-LOAD/NCRAD and EFIGA data sets. We restricted analyses to families with follow-up and complete phenotype information, including 396 NIA-LOAD/NCRAD and 242 EFIGA families. Among the 943 at-risk family members in the NIA-LOAD/NCRAD families, 126 (13.4%) developed dementia, of whom 109 (86.5%) met criteria for LOAD. Among 683 at-risk family members in the EFIGA families, 174 (25.5%) developed dementia during the study period, of whom 145 (83.3%) had LOAD.
RESULTS
The annual incidence rates of dementia and LOAD in the NIA-LOAD/NCRAD families per person-year were 0.03 and 0.03, respectively, in participants aged 65 to 74 years; 0.07 and 0.06, respectively, in those aged 75 to 84 years; and 0.08 and 0.07, respectively, in those 85 years or older. Incidence rates in the EFIGA families were slightly higher, at 0.03 and 0.02, 0.06 and 0.05, 0.10 and 0.08, and 0.10 and 0.07, respectively, in the same age groups. Contrasting these results with the population-based estimates, the incidence was increased by 3-fold for NIA-LOAD/NCRAD families (standardized incidence ratio, 3.44) and 2-fold among the EFIGA compared with the NIA-LOAD/NCRAD families (1.71).
CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE
The incidence rates for familial dementia and LOAD in the NIA-LOAD/NCRAD and EFIGA families are significantly higher than population-based estimates. The incidence rates in all groups increase with age. The higher incidence of LOAD can be explained by segregation of Alzheimer disease–related genes in these families or shared environmental risks.
doi:10.1001/jamaneurol.2013.5570
PMCID: PMC4000602  PMID: 24425039
19.  Florbetapir PET analysis of amyloid-β deposition in the presenilin 1 E280A autosomal dominant Alzheimer’s disease kindred: a cross-sectional study 
Lancet neurology  2012;11(12):10.1016/S1474-4422(12)70227-2.
Summary
Background
Fibrillar amyloid-β (Aβ) is thought to begin accumulating in the brain many years before the onset of clinical impairment in patients with Alzheimer’s disease. By assessing the accumulation of Aβ in people at risk of genetic forms of Alzheimer’s disease, we can identify how early preclinical changes start in individuals certain to develop dementia later in life. We sought to characterise the age-related accumulation of Aβ deposition in presenilin 1 (PSEN1) E280A mutation carriers across the spectrum of preclinical disease.
Methods
Between Aug 1 and Dec 6, 2011, members of the familial Alzheimer’s disease Colombian kindred aged 18–60 years were recruited from the Alzheimer’s Prevention Initiative’s registry at the University of Antioquia, Medellín, Colombia. Cross-sectional assessment using florbetapir PET was done in symptomatic mutation carriers with mild cognitive impairment or mild dementia, asymptomatic carriers, and asymptomatic non-carriers. These assessments were done at the Banner Alzheimer’s Institute in Phoenix, AZ, USA. A cortical grey matter mask consisting of six predefined regions. was used to measure mean cortical florbetapir PET binding. Cortical-to-pontine standard-uptake value ratios were used to characterise the cross-sectional accumulation of fibrillar Aβ deposition in carriers and non-carriers with regression analysis and to estimate the trajectories of fibrillar Aβ deposition.
Findings
We enrolled a cohort of 11 symptomatic individuals, 19 presymptomatic mutation carriers, and 20 asymptomatic non-carriers, ranging in age from 20 to 56 years. There was greater florbetapir binding in asymptomatic PSEN1 E280A mutation carriers than in age matched non-carriers. Fibrillar Aβ began to accumulate in PSEN 1E280A mutation carriers at a mean age of 28·2 years (95% CI 27·3–33·4), about 16 years and 21 years before the predicted median ages at mild cognitive impairment and dementia onset, respectively. 18F florbetapir binding rose steeply over the next 9·4 years and plateaued at a mean age of 37·6 years (95% CI 35·3–40·2), about 6 and 11 years before the expected respective median ages at mild cognitive impairment and dementia onset. Prominent florbetapir binding was seen in the anterior and posterior cingulate, precuneus, and parietotemporal and frontal grey matter, as well as in the basal ganglia. Binding in the basal ganglia was not seen earlier or more prominently than in other regions.
Interpretation
These findings contribute to the understanding of preclinical familial Alzheimer’s disease and help set the stage for assessment of amyloid-modifying treatments in the prevention of familial Alzheimer’s disease.
Funding
Avid Radiopharmaceuticals, Banner Alzheimer’s Foundation, Nomis Foundation, Anonymous Foundation, Forget Me Not Initiative, Colciencias, National Institute on Aging, and the State of Arizona.
doi:10.1016/S1474-4422(12)70227-2
PMCID: PMC3515078  PMID: 23137949
20.  Memory Loss, Alzheimer’s Disease and General Anesthesia: A Preoperative Concern 
Background
The long-term cognitive effects of general anesthesia are under intense scrutiny. Here we present 5 cases from 2 academic institutions to analyze some common features where the patient’s or the patient family member has made a request to address their concern on memory loss, Alzheimer’s disease and general anesthesia before surgery.
Methods
Records of anesthesia consultation separate from standard preoperative evaluation were retrieved to identify consultations related to memory loss and Alzheimer’s disease from the patient and/or patient family members. The identified cases were extensively reviewed for features in common. We used Google® (http://www. google.com/) to identify available online information using “anesthesia memory loss” as a search phrase.
Results
Five cases were collected as a specific preoperative consultation related to memory loss, Alzheimer’s disease and general anesthesia from two institutions. All of the individuals either had perceived memory impairment after a prior surgical procedure with general anesthesia or had a family member with Alzheimer’s disease. They all accessed public media sources to find articles related to anesthesia and memory loss. On May 2nd, 2011, searching “anesthesia memory loss” in Google yielded 764,000 hits. Only 3 of the 50 Google top hits were from peer-reviewed journals. Some of the lay media postings made a causal association between general anesthesia and memory loss and/or Alzheimer’s disease without conclusive scientific literature support.
Conclusion
The potential link between memory loss and Alzheimer’s disease with general anesthesia is an important preoperative concern from patients and their family members. This concern arises from individuals who have had history of cognitive impairment or have had a family member with Alzheimer disease and have tried to obtain information from public media. Proper preoperative consultation with the awareness of the lay literature can be useful in reducing patient and patient family member’s preoperative anxiety related to this concern.
doi:10.4172/2155-6148.1000192
PMCID: PMC3708317  PMID: 23853740
21.  Effect of a Computer-Based Decision Aid on Knowledge, Perceptions, and Intentions About Genetic Testing for Breast Cancer Susceptibility 
Context
As the availability of and demand for genetic testing for hereditary cancers increases in primary care and other clinical settings, alternative or adjunct educational methods to traditional genetic counseling will be needed.
Objective
To compare the effectiveness of a computer-based decision aid with standard genetic counseling for educating women about BRCA1 and BRCA2 genetic testing.
Design
Randomized controlled trial conducted from May 2000 to September 2002.
Setting and Participants
Outpatient clinics offering cancer genetic counseling at 6 US medical centers enrolled 211 women with personal or family histories of breast cancer.
Interventions
Standard one-on-one genetic counseling (n=105) or education by a computer program followed by genetic counseling (n=106).
Main Outcome Measures
Participants’ knowledge, risk perception, intention to undergo genetic testing, decisional conflict, satisfaction with decision, anxiety, and satisfaction with the intervention. Counselor group measures were administered at baseline and after counseling. Computer group measures were administered at baseline, after computer use, and after counseling. Testing decisions were assessed at 1 and 6 months. Outcomes were analyzed by high vs low risk of carrying a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation.
Results
Both groups had comparable demographics, prior computer experience, medical literacy, and baseline knowledge of breast cancer and genetic testing, and both counseling and computer use were rated highly. Knowledge scores increased in both groups (P<.001) regardless of risk status, and change in knowledge was greater in the computer group compared with the counselor group (P=.03) among women at low risk of carrying a mutation. Perception of absolute risk of breast cancer decreased significantly after either intervention among all participants. Intention to undergo testing decreased significantly after either intervention among low-risk but not high-risk women. The counselor group had lower mean scores on a decisional conflict scale (P=.04) and, in low-risk women, higher mean scores on a satisfaction-with-decision scale (P=.001). Mean state anxiety scores were reduced by counseling but were within normal ranges for both groups at baseline and after either intervention, regardless of risk status.
Conclusions
An interactive computer program was more effective than standard genetic counseling for increasing knowledge of breast cancer and genetic testing among women at low risk of carrying a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation. However, genetic counseling was more effective than the computer at reducing women’s anxiety and facilitating more accurate risk perceptions. These results suggest that this computer program has the potential to stand alone as an educational intervention for low-risk women but should be used as a supplement to genetic counseling for those at high risk.
doi:10.1001/jama.292.4.442
PMCID: PMC1237120  PMID: 15280342
22.  Comparison of clinical characteristics between familial and non-familial early onset Alzheimer’s disease 
Journal of neurology  2012;259(10):2182-2188.
Although familial Alzheimer’s disease (FAD) is an early onset AD (EAD), most patients with EAD do not have a familial disorder. Recent guidelines recommend testing for genes causing FAD only in those EAD patients with two first-degree relatives. However, some patients with FAD may lack a known family history or other indications for suspecting FAD but might nonetheless be carriers of FAD mutations. The study was aimed to identify clinical features that distinguish FAD from non-familial EAD (NF-EAD). A retrospective review of a university-based cohort of 32 FAD patients with PSEN1-related AD and 81 with NF-EAD was conducted. The PSEN1 patients, compared to the NF-EAD patients, had an earlier age of disease onset (41.8 ± 5.2 vs. 55.9 ± 4.8 years) and, at initial assessment, a longer disease duration (5.1 ± 3.4 vs. 3.3 ± 2.6 years) and lower MMSE scores (10.74 ± 8.0 vs. 20.95 ± 5.8). Patients with NF-EAD were more likely to present with non-memory deficits, particularly visuospatial symptoms, than were FAD patients. When age, disease duration, and MMSE scores were controlled in a logistical regression model, FAD patients were more likely to have significant headaches, myoclonus, gait abnormality, and pseudobulbar affect than those with NF-EAD. In addition to a much younger age of onset, FAD patients with PSEN1 mutations differed from those with NF-EAD by a history of headaches and pseudobulbar affect, as well as myoclonus and gait abnormality on examination. These may represent differences in pathophysiology between FAD and NF-EAD and in some contexts such findings should lead to genetic counseling and appropriate recommendations for genetic testing for FAD.
doi:10.1007/s00415-012-6481-y
PMCID: PMC3442121  PMID: 22460587
Dementia; Early onset Alzheimer’s disease; Familial Alzheimer’s disease; PSEN1 gene
23.  Mothers’ perspectives on their child’s mental illness as compared to other complex disorders in their family: Insights to inform genetic counseling practice 
Journal of genetic counseling  2011;21(4):564-572.
To facilitate the development of a therapeutic alliance in genetic counseling, it is important that the counselor understands how families might perceive the condition that constitutes the reason for the referral. Through training and professional practice, genetic counselors develop a thorough understanding of families’ perceptions of the conditions that are common indications for genetic counseling. But, for referral indications that are less frequent, like serious mental illnesses, genetic counselors may feel less confident in their understanding of the family’s experience, or in their ability to provide psychosocial support when serious mental illness is reported in a family history. This may impede the establishment of a therapeutic alliance. As research shows that most referrals for genetic counseling related to serious mental illness are for female first-degree family members of affected individuals, we sought to explore how this group perceives serious mental illness. To provide a frame of reference with which genetic counselors may be more familiar, we explored how women perceived serious mental illness compared to other common complex disorders in their family. We conducted semi-structured interviews with women who had a child with a serious mental illness (schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder) and a first-degree relative with another common complex disorder (diabetes, heart disease, cancer). Interviews were transcribed and subjected to thematic analysis. Saturation was reached when nine women had participated. Serious mental illness was perceived as being more severe and as having a greater impact on the family than diabetes, heart disease, or cancer. Themes identified included guilt, stigma, and loss. Some of the most important issues that contribute to mothers’ perceptions that serious mental illness is more severe than other common complex disorders could be effectively addressed in genetic counseling. Developing a heightened awareness of how family members experience a relative’s mental illness may help genetic counselors to be better able to provide psychosocial support to this group, whether serious mental illness constitutes the primary reason for referral or appears in the family history during counseling for a different referral reason.
doi:10.1007/s10897-011-9420-7
PMCID: PMC3753288  PMID: 22089936 CAMSID: cams3093
stigma; guilt; psychiatric disorders; schizophrenia; bipolar disorder; serious mental illness; perceptions of mental illness
24.  Attitudes and Practices Among Internists Concerning Genetic Testing 
Journal of genetic counseling  2012;22(1):90-100.
Many questions remain concerning whether, when, and how physicians order genetic tests, and what factors are involved in their decisions. We surveyed 220 internists from two academic medical centers about their utilization of genetic testing. Rates of genetic utilizations varied widely by disease. Respondents were most likely to have ordered tests for Factor V Leiden (16.8%), followed by Breast/Ovarian Cancer (15.0%). In the past 6 months, 65% had counseled patients on genetic issues, 44% had ordered genetic tests, 38.5% had referred patients to a genetic counselor or geneticist, and 27.5% had received ads from commercial labs for genetic testing. Only 4.5% had tried to hide or disguise genetic information, and <2% have had patients report genetic discrimination. Only 53.4% knew of a geneticist/genetic counselor to whom to refer patients. Most rated their knowledge as very/somewhat poor concerning genetics (73.7%) and guidelines for genetic testing (87.1%). Most felt needs for more training on when to order tests (79%), and how to counsel patients (82%), interpret results (77.3%), and maintain privacy (80.6%). Physicians were more likely to have ordered a genetic test if patients inquired about genetic testing (p<.001), and if physicians had a geneticist/genetic counselor to whom to refer patients (p<.002), had referred patients to a geneticist/genetic counselor in the past 6 months, had more comfort counseling patients about testing (p<.019), counseled patients about genetics, larger practices (p<.032), fewer African-American patients (p<.027), and patients who had reported genetic discrimination (p<.044). In a multiple logistic regression, ordering a genetic test was associated with patients inquiring about testing, having referred patients to a geneticist/genetic counselor and knowing how to order tests., These data suggest that physicians recognize their knowledge deficits, and are interested in training. These findings have important implications for future medical practice, research, and education.
doi:10.1007/s10897-012-9504-z
PMCID: PMC3433636  PMID: 22585186
genetic testing; medical education; doctor-patient communication; ethics; genetic discrimination; decision-making; genetic counseling
25.  Relation between nicotine intake and Alzheimer's disease. 
BMJ : British Medical Journal  1991;302(6791):1491-1494.
OBJECTIVE--To study the association between Alzheimer's disease and nicotine intake through smoking. DESIGN--Population based case-control study. SETTING--City of Rotterdam and four northern provinces of The Netherlands. SUBJECTS--198 patients with early onset Alzheimer's disease, 198 controls matched for age and sex, and families of 17 patients in whom Alzheimer's disease was apparently inherited as an autosomal dominant disorder. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES--Age of onset of dementia, relative risk of Alzheimer's disease. RESULTS--89 of 193 patients with Alzheimer's disease had a history of smoking compared with 102 of 195 controls. Among the patients and controls with a family history of dementia, smoking was significantly less common in those with dementia (40/95 with dementia v 55/96 controls; relative risk 0.35; 95% confidence interval 0.16 to 0.78). The risk of Alzheimer's disease decreased with increasing daily number of cigarettes smoked before onset of disease (relative risk 0.3 in those smoking greater than 21/day v 1 in non-smokers). In six families in which the disease was apparently inherited as an autosomal dominant disorder, the mean age of onset was 4.17 years later in smoking patients than in non-smoking patients from the same family (p = 0.03). CONCLUSIONS--These findings suggest an inverse association between smoking and Alzheimer's disease, although smoking cannot be advocated for other health reasons. We speculate that nicotine may have a role in the aetiology of both Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease.
PMCID: PMC1670208  PMID: 1855016

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