The apolipoprotein E (APOE) genotype provides information on the risk of Alzheimer's disease, but the genotyping of patients and their family members has been discouraged. We examined the effect of genotype disclosure in a prospective, randomized, controlled trial.
We randomly assigned 162 asymptomatic adults who had a parent with Alzheimer's disease to receive the results of their own APOE genotyping (disclosure group) or not to receive such results (nondisclosure group). We measured symptoms of anxiety, depression, and test-related distress 6 weeks, 6 months, and 1 year after disclosure or nondisclosure.
There were no significant differences between the two groups in changes in time-averaged measures of anxiety (4.5 in the disclosure group and 4.4 in the nondisclosure group, P = 0.84), depression (8.8 and 8.7, respectively; P = 0.98), or test-related distress (6.9 and 7.5, respectively; P=0.61). Secondary comparisons between the non-disclosure group and a disclosure subgroup of subjects carrying the APOE ε4 allele (which is associated with increased risk) also revealed no significant differences. However, the ε4-negative subgroup had a significantly lower level of test-related distress than did the ε4-positive subgroup (P=0.01). Subjects with clinically meaningful changes in psychological outcomes were distributed evenly among the nondisclosure group and the ε4-positive and ε4-negative subgroups. Baseline scores for anxiety and depression were strongly associated with post-disclosure scores of these measures (P<0.001 for both comparisons).
The disclosure of APOE genotyping results to adult children of patients with Alzheimer's disease did not result in significant short-term psychological risks. Test-related distress was reduced among those who learned that they were APOE ε4–negative. Persons with high levels of emotional distress before undergoing genetic testing were more likely to have emotional difficulties after disclosure. (ClinicalTrials.gov number, NCT00571025.)
This review highlights emerging areas of interest in public health genomics. First, recent advances in newborn screening (NBS) are described, with a focus on practice and policy implications of current and future efforts to expand NBS programs (e.g., via next-generation sequencing). Next, research findings from the rapidly progressing field of epigenetics and epigenomics are detailed, highlighting ways in which our emerging understanding in these areas could guide future intervention and research efforts in public health. We close by considering various ethical, legal and social issues posed by recent developments in public health genomics; these include policies to regulate access to personal genomic information; the need to enhance genetic literacy in both health professionals and the public; and challenges in ensuring that the benefits (and burdens) from genomic discoveries and applications are equitably distributed. Needs for future genomics research that integrates across basic and social sciences are also noted.
Newborn screening; epigenetics; epigenomics; bioethics; health education
As the genetics of neurodegenerative disease become better understood, opportunities for genetic susceptibility testing for at-risk individuals will increase. Such testing raises important ethical and practice issues related to test access, informed consent, risk estimation and communication, return of results, and policies to prevent genetic discrimination. The advent of direct-to-consumer genetic susceptibility testing for various neurodegenerative disorders (including Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and certain prion diseases) means that ethical and practical challenges must be faced not only in traditional research and clinical settings, but also in broader society. This review addresses several topics relevant to the development and implementation of genetic susceptibility tests across research, clinical, and consumer settings; these include appropriate indications for testing, the implications of different methods for disclosing test results, clinical versus personal utility of risk information, psychological and behavioral responses to test results, testing of minors, genetic discrimination, and ethical dilemmas posed by whole-genome sequencing. We also identify future areas of likely growth in the field, including pharmacogenomics and genetic screening for individuals considering or engaged in activities that pose elevated risk of brain injury (e.g., football players, military personnel). APOE gene testing for risk of Alzheimer’s disease is used throughout as an instructive case example, drawing upon the authors’ experience as investigators in a series of multisite randomized clinical trials that have examined the impact of disclosing APOE genotype status to interested individuals (e.g., first-degree relatives, persons with mild cognitive impairment).
Genetic testing; risk assessment; apolipoprotein E (APOE); ethics; genetic counseling
Direct-to-consumer genetic testing (DTC-GT) has sparked much controversy and undergone dramatic changes in its brief history. Debates over appropriate health policies regarding DTC-GT would benefit from empirical research on its benefits, harms, and limitations. We review the recent literature (2011-present) and summarize findings across (1) content analyses of DTC-GT websites, (2) studies of consumer perspectives and experiences, and (3) surveys of relevant health care providers. Findings suggest that neither the health benefits envisioned by DTC-GT proponents (e.g., significant improvements in positive health behaviors) nor the worst fears expressed by its critics (e.g., catastrophic psychological distress and misunderstanding of test results, undue burden on the health care system) have materialized to date. However, research in this area is in its early stages and possesses numerous key limitations. We note needs for future studies to illuminate the impact of DTC-GT and thereby guide practice and policy regarding this rapidly evolving approach to personal genomics.
Genetic testing; Consumer genomics; Health ethics; Health policy; Personalized medicine
Whether to return individual research results from cancer genetics studies is widely debated, but little is known about how participants respond to results disclosure or about its time and cost burdens on investigators.
We recontacted participants at one site of a multicenter genetic epidemiologic study regarding their CDKN2A gene test results and implications for melanoma risk. Interested participants were disclosed their results by telephone and followed for 3 months.
Among 39 patients approached, 27 were successfully contacted, and 19 (70% uptake) sought results, including three with mutations. Prior to disclosure, participants endorsed numerous benefits of receiving results (mean = 7.7 of 9 posed), including gaining information relevant to their children’s disease risk. Mean psychological well-being scores did not change from baseline, and no decreases to melanoma prevention behaviors were noted. Fifty-nine percent of participants reported that disclosure made participation in future research more likely. Preparation for disclosure required 40 minutes and $611 per recontact attempt. An additional 78 minutes and $68 was needed to disclose results.
Cancer epidemiology research participants who received their individual genetic research results showed no evidence of psychological harm or false reassurance from disclosure and expressed strong trust in the accuracy of results. Burdens to our investigators were high, but protocols may differ in their demands and disclosure may increase participants’ willingness to enroll in future studies.
Providing individual study results to cancer genetics research participants poses potential challenges for investigators, but many participants desire and respond positively to this information.
Direct-to-consumer genetic testing is a new means of obtaining genetic testing outside of a traditional clinical setting. This study assesses genetic counselors’ experience, knowledge, and beliefs regarding direct-to-consumer genetic testing for tests that would currently be offered in genetics clinics.
Members of the National Society of Genetic Counselors completed a web-administered survey in February 2008.
Response rate was 36%; the final data analysis included 312 respondents. Eighty-three percent of respondents had two or fewer inquiries about direct-to-consumer genetic testing, and 14% had received requests for test interpretation or discussion. Respondents believed that genetic counselors have a professional obligation to be knowledgeable about direct-to-consumer genetic testing (55%) and interpret results (48%). Fifty-one percent of respondents thought genetic testing should be limited to a clinical setting; 56% agreed direct-to-consumer genetic testing is acceptable if genetic counseling is provided. More than 70% of respondents would definitely or possibly consider direct-to-consumer testing for patients who (1) have concerns about genetic discrimination, (2) want anonymous testing, or (3) have geographic constraints.
Results indicate that genetic counselors have limited patient experiences with direct-to-consumer genetic testing and are cautiously considering if and under what circumstances this approach should be used
The aim of the current study was to learn how people integrate attitudes about multiple health conditions to make a decision about genetic testing uptake.
This study recruited 294 healthy young adults from a parent research project, the Multiplex Initiative, conducted in a large health care system in Detroit, Michigan. All participants were offered a multiplex genetic test that assessed risk for 8 common health conditions (e.g., type 2 diabetes). Data were collected from a baseline survey, a web-based survey, and at the time of testing.
Averaging attitudes across diseases predicted test uptake but did not contribute beyond peak attitudes, the highest attitude toward testing for a single disease in the set. Peak attitudes were found sufficient to predict test uptake.
The effects of set size and mode of presentation could not be examined because these factors were constant in the multiplex test offered.
These findings support theories suggesting that people use representative evaluations in attitude formation. The implication of these findings for further developments in genetic testing is that the communication and impact of multiplex testing may need to be considered in the light of a bias toward peak attitudes.
cognitive psychology; judgment and decision psychology; patient choice modeling; social judgment theory
To describe the process of structuring a partnership between academic researchers and two personalized genetic testing companies that would manage conflicts of interest while allowing researchers to study the impact of this nascent industry.
We developed a transparent process of ongoing communication about the interests of all research partners to address challenges in establishing study goals, survey development, data collection, analysis, and manuscript preparation. Using the existing literature on conflicts of interest and our experience, we created a checklist for academic and industry researchers seeking to structure research partnerships.
Our checklist includes questions about the risk to research participants, sponsorship of the study, control of data analysis, freedom to publish results, the impact of the research on industry customers, openness to input from all partners, sharing results before publication, and publication of industry-specific data. Transparency is critical to building trust between partners. Involving all partners in the research development enhanced the quality of our research and provided an opportunity to manage conflicts early in the research process.
Navigating relationships between academia and industry is complex and requires strategies that are transparent and responsive to the concerns of all. Employing a checklist of questions prior to beginning a research partnership may help to manage conflicts of interest.
conflicts of interest; direct-to-consumer; partnership; personalized genetic testing; personalized medicine
Brief, effective models of patient genetic education are needed for common, complex diseases. Using Alzheimer disease as a model, we compared participants’ risk knowledge and recall in extended versus condensed education protocols.
A four-site randomized clinical trial enrolled 280 first-degree relatives of individuals with Alzheimer disease (mean age = 58 years, 71% female); each received lifetime Alzheimer disease risk information (range: 13–74%) that incorporated apolipoprotein E genotype. In the condensed protocol, participants received an educational brochure in place of an in-person education session. Outcomes were assessed at 6 weeks and 6 months following risk disclosure.
The condensed protocol required less clinician time than the extended protocol (mean = 34 min vs. 77 min). The groups did not differ on recall of apolipoprotein E genotype or lifetime risk, and most participants in both groups recalled and retained this information over time. Both groups showed improvement from baseline in Alzheimer disease risk knowledge (e.g., understanding the magnitude of apolipoprotein E genotype effect on risk).
A condensed protocol for communicating genetic risk for Alzheimer disease achieved similar educational results as an extended protocol in this study. Further research should explore the efficacy of brief genetic education protocols for complex diseases in diverse populations.
Alzheimer disease; APOE; genetic counseling; health education; risk communication
To test the relationships between worry and perceptions of likelihood and severity (two indicators of risk perception) across eight common diseases, and to examine contributions of individual and disease variability in worry and risk perceptions.
Participants were 294 people recruited through the Multiplex Initiative, in which a genetic susceptibility test for 8 common diseases was offered to healthy adults. Participants completed a baseline telephone survey and Web-based surveys measuring the variables for this ancillary study, without a commitment to be tested.
Between- and within-subjects analyses yielded the following findings: 1) worry is more related to likelihood perceptions than to severity perceptions; 2) severity perceptions add significantly to explained worry variances above and beyond likelihood perceptions; 3) the likelihood × severity perception does not add to explained variance in worry above its components; 4) risk perceptions and worries form two identifiable clusters: cancer diseases and cardiovascular-metabolic diseases; 5) there are significant differences in risk perceptions and worry among diseases; 6) there are significant gender differences in risk perceptions and worry about common diseases; 7) variance in risk perception and worry is explained by a combination of between- and within-subjects variances, with the latter being more powerful.
Risk perception research should pay attention to severity perceptions, within-subjects variability and inter-disease differences should not be ignored, gender perspectives on illness perceptions should be acknowledged, and health psychologists must prepare for considering groups of illnesses in addition to single diseases.
risk perception; worry; severity; likelihood; within-subjects
Background: The increased availability of genetic tests for common, complex diseases, such as Alzheimer's disease (AD), raises questions about what people are willing to pay for these services. Methods: We studied willingness-to-pay for genetic testing in a study of AD risk assessment that included APOE genotype disclosure among 276 first-degree relatives of persons with AD. Results: Seventy-one percent reported that they would ask for such testing from their doctor if it were covered by health insurance, and 60% would ask for it even if it required self-pay. Forty-one percent were willing to pay more than $100 for testing, and more than half would have been willing to pay for the test out of pocket. Participants who learned that they were APOE ɛ4 positive and those who had higher education were less likely to want testing if covered by insurance, possibly to avoid discrimination. Conclusion: This is the first report to examine willingness to pay for susceptibility genetic testing in a sample of participants who had actually undergone such testing. These findings reveal that some participants find valuable personal utility in genetic risk information even when such information does not have proven clinical utility.
Susceptibility testing for common, complex adult-onset diseases is projected to become more commonplace as the rapid pace of genomic discoveries continues, and evidence regarding the potential benefits and harms of such testing is needed to inform medical practice and health policy. Apolipoprotein E (APOE) testing for risk of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) provides a paradigm in which to examine the process and impact of disclosing genetic susceptibility for a prevalent, severe and incurable neurological condition. This review summarizes findings from a series of multi-site randomized clinical trials examining psychological and behavioral responses to various methods of genetic risk assessment for AD using APOE disclosure. We discuss challenges involved in disease risk estimation and communication and the extent to which participants comprehend and perceive utility in their genetic risk information. Findings on the psychological impact of test results are presented (e.g., distress), along with data on participants’ health behavior and insurance purchasing responses (e.g., long term care). Finally, we report comparisons of the safety and efficacy of intensive genetic counseling approaches to briefer models that emphasize streamlined processes and educational materials. The implications of these findings for the emerging field of personal genomics are discussed, with directions identified for future research.
Individual cancers harbor a set of genetic aberrations that can be informative for identifying rational therapies currently available or in clinical trials. We implemented a pilot study to explore the practical challenges of applying high-throughput sequencing in clinical oncology. We enrolled patients with advanced or refractory cancer who were eligible for clinical trials. For each patient, we performed whole-genome sequencing of the tumor, targeted whole-exome sequencing of tumor and normal DNA, and transcriptome sequencing (RNA-Seq) of the tumor to identify potentially informative mutations in a clinically relevant time frame of 3 to 4 weeks. With this approach, we detected several classes of cancer mutations including structural rearrangements, copy number alterations, point mutations, and gene expression alterations. A multidisciplinary Sequencing Tumor Board (STB) deliberated on the clinical interpretation of the sequencing results obtained. We tested our sequencing strategy on human prostate cancer xenografts. Next, we enrolled two patients into the clinical protocol and were able to review the results at our STB within 24 days of biopsy. The first patient had metastatic colorectal cancer in which we identified somatic point mutations in NRAS, TP53, AURKA, FAS, and MYH11, plus amplification and overexpression of cyclin-dependent kinase 8 (CDK8). The second patient had malignant melanoma, in which we identified a somatic point mutation in HRAS and a structural rearrangement affecting CDKN2C. The STB identified the CDK8 amplification and Ras mutation as providing a rationale for clinical trials with CDK inhibitors or MEK (mitogenactivated or extracellular signal–regulated protein kinase kinase) and PI3K (phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase) inhibitors, respectively. Integrative high-throughput sequencing of patients with advanced cancer generates a comprehensive, individual mutational landscape to facilitate biomarker-driven clinical trials in oncology.
Genetic susceptibility testing for common diseases is expanding, but little is known about race group differences in test perceptions. The purpose of this study was to examine differences between African Americans and Whites in knowledge, attitudes, and motivations regarding genetic susceptibility testing for Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Before enrolling in an AD genetic testing research trial, 313 first-degree relatives of AD patients (20% African American; 71% female; mean age = 58 years) were surveyed regarding: (1) knowledge about genetics and AD risk; (2) concerns about developing AD; and (3) reasons for seeking testing. In comparison to Whites, African Americans were less knowledgeable about genetics and AD risk (p<.01) and less concerned about developing AD (p<.05), with lower levels of perceived disease risk (p=.04). The results suggest that African Americans and Whites differ notably in their knowledge, beliefs, and attitudes regarding genetic testing for AD. Additional research with more representative samples is needed to better understand these differences.
Genetic testing; African Americans; Alzheimer’s disease; APOE; Risk assessment; Susceptibility testing; Health beliefs; Health literacy; Health disparities
Alzheimer disease is the most common cause of dementia. It occurs worldwide and affects all ethnic groups. The incidence of Alzheimer disease is increasing due, in part, to increased life expectancy and the aging baby boomer generation. The average lifetime risk of developing Alzheimer disease is 10–12%. This risk at least doubles with the presence of a first-degree relative with the disorder. Despite its limited utility, patients express concern over their risk and, in some instances, request testing. Furthermore, research has demonstrated that testing individuals for apoli-poprotein E can be valuable and safe in certain contexts. However, because of the complicated genetic nature of the disorder, few clinicians are prepared to address the genetic risks of Alzheimer disease with their patients. Given the increased awareness in family history thanks to family history campaigns, the increasing incidence of Alzheimer disease, and the availability of direct to consumer testing, patient requests for information is increasing. This practice guideline provides clinicians with a framework for assessing their patients’ genetic risk for Alzheimer disease, identifying which individuals may benefit from genetic testing, and providing the key elements of genetic counseling for AD.
Alzheimer disease; dementia; guideline; genetic testing; genetic counseling
New genetic tests reveal risks for multiple conditions simultaneously, although little is understood about the psychological factors that affect testing uptake. We assessed a conceptual model called the Multiplex Genetic Testing Model (MGTM) using structural equation modeling (SEM). The MGTM delineates worry, perceived severity, perceived risk, response efficacy and attitudes toward testing as predictors of intentions and behavior. Participants were 270 healthy insured adults age 25–40 from the Multiplex Initiative conducted within a health care system in Detroit MI, USA. Participants were offered a genetic test that assessed risk for eight common health conditions. Confirmatory factor analysis revealed that worry, perceived risk and severity clustered into two disease domains: cancer or metabolic conditions. Only perceived severity of metabolic conditions was correlated with general response efficacy (β=0.13, p<0.05), which predicted general attitudes toward testing (β=0.24, p<0.01). Consistent with our hypothesized model, attitudes towards testing were the strongest predictors of intentions to undergo testing (β=0.49, p<0.01), which in turn predicted testing uptake (OR 17.7, β=0.97, p<0.01). The MGTM explained a striking 48% of the variance in intentions and 94% of the variation in uptake. These findings support use of the MGTM to explain psychological predictors of testing for multiple health conditions.
Genetic testing; Multiplex Initiative; health behavior; common disease; structural equation modeling; personalized medicine; U.S.A.
Perceptions about the pros and cons of genetic susceptibility testing are among the best predictors of test utilization. How actual testing changes such perceptions has yet to be examined.
In a clinical trial, first-degree relatives of patients with Alzheimer disease received genetic risk assessments for Alzheimer disease including APOE disclosure. Participants rated 11 possible benefits associated with genetic testing (pros) and 10 risks or limitations (cons) before genetic risk disclosure and again 12 months afterward.
Pros were rated higher than cons at baseline (3.53 vs. 1.83, P < 0.001) and at 12 months after risk disclosure (3.33 vs. 1.88, P < 0.001). Ratings of pros decreased during the 12-month period (3.33 vs. 3.53, P < 0.001). Ratings of cons did not change (1.88 vs. 1.83, P = 0.199) except for a three-item discrimination subscale which increased (2.07 vs. 1.92, P = 0.012). Among specific pros and cons, three items related to prevention and treatment changed the most.
The process of APOE genetic risk assessment for Alzheimer disease sensitizes some to its limitations and the risks of discrimination; however, 1-year after disclosure, test recipients still consider the pros to strongly outweigh the cons.
Alzheimer; pros; cons; benefits; discrimination; genetics; risk; APOE; susceptibility testing; education
The obligations of researchers to disclose clinically and/or personally significant individual research results are highly debated, but few empirical studies have addressed this topic. We describe the development of a protocol for returning research results to participants at one site of a multicenter study of the genetic epidemiology of melanoma. Protocol development involved numerous challenges: (1) deciding whether genotype results merited disclosure; (2) achieving an appropriate format for communicating results; (3) developing education materials; (4) deciding whether to retest samples for additional laboratory validation; (5) identifying and notifying selected participants; and (6) assessing the impact of disclosure. Our experience suggests potential obstacles depending on researcher resources and the design of the parent study, but offers a process by which researchers can responsibly return individual study results and evaluate the impact of disclosure.
genetic testing; cancer; CDKN2A; risk communication; return of research results; protocol development
To estimate the prevalence of successful aging in the United States, with the broad aim of contributing to the dialogue on Rowe and Kahn’s concept of successful aging.
Using data from the Health and Retirement Study, the prevalence of successful aging was calculated for adults aged 65 years and older at four time points: 1998, 2000, 2002, and 2004. Successful aging was operationalized in accordance with Rowe and Kahn’s definition, which encompasses disease and disability, cognitive and physical functioning, social connections, and productive activities.
No greater than 11.9% of older adults were aging “successfully” in any year. The adjusted odds of successful aging were generally lower for those of advanced age, male gender, and lower socioeconomic status. Between 1998 and 2004, the odds of successful aging declined by 25%, after accounting for demographic changes in the older population.
Few older adults meet the criteria put forth in Rowe and Kahn’s definition of successful aging, suggesting the need for modification if the concept is to be used for broad public health purposes. Disparities in successful aging were evident for socially defined subgroups, highlighting the importance of structural factors in enabling successful aging.
Health disparities; Healthy aging; Prevalence; Successful aging
This study explored the extent to which recipients of genetic susceptibility testing for Alzheimer’s disease (AD) communicated their results to others. It also examined demographic characteristics, along with beliefs about AD, associated with such communication. Participants (N = 271) in a randomized clinical trial involving genetic testing for Apolipoprotein E (APOE) gene variants among first-degree relatives of AD patients reported their communication behaviors 6 weeks after the results disclosure. Information on beliefs about AD and genetic testing was collected at baseline. Eighty-two percent of participants receiving APOE genotype information shared their results with someone. Specifically, 64% shared with family members, 51% with spouse or significant others, 35% with friends, and 12% with health care professionals. Greater AD treatment optimism was associated with communicating results to family (OR=1.43), spouse (OR=1.62), friends (OR =1.81), and health care professionals (OR=2.20). Lower perceived risk (OR=0.98) and higher perceived importance of genetics in the development of AD (OR=1.93) were associated with results communication in general. Lower perceived drawbacks of AD genetic testing was associated with results communication to friends (OR=0.65). Beliefs about AD risks and causes, genetic testing, and development of treatments may partly determine the interpersonal communication patterns of genetic susceptibility test results.
Susceptibility genetic testing; Alzheimer’s disease; APOE communication; disclosure
The increasing availability of personal genomic tests has led to discussions about the validity and utility of such tests and the balance of benefits and harms. A multidisciplinary workshop was convened by the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to review the scientific foundation for using personal genomics in risk assessment and disease prevention and to develop recommendations for targeted research. The clinical validity and utility of personal genomics is a moving target with rapidly developing discoveries but little translation research to close the gap between discoveries and health impact. Workshop participants made recommendations in five domains: (1) developing and applying scientific standards for assessing personal genomic tests; (2) developing and applying a multidisciplinary research agenda, including observational studies and clinical trials to fill knowledge gaps in clinical validity and utility; (3) enhancing credible knowledge synthesis and information dissemination to clinicians and consumers; (4) linking scientific findings to evidence-based recommendations for use of personal genomics; and (5) assessing how the concept of personal utility can affect health benefits, costs, and risks by developing appropriate metrics for evaluation. To fulfill the promise of personal genomics, a rigorous multidisciplinary research agenda is needed.
behavioral sciences; epidemiologic methods; evidence-based medicine; genetics; genetic testing; genomics; medicine; public health
A genetic marker known as apolipoprotein E provides a clear signal of a person’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and thus that person’s future need for long-term care. People who find that they have the variant of the trait that increases Alzheimer’s disease risk are more likely to purchase long-term care insurance after receiving this information. If the information is widely introduced into the insurance market, coverage rates could be affected in different ways, depending on who possesses that information. Policymakers will eventually need to confront the issue of the use of this and other markers in the pricing of long-term care insurance.
This paper explores whether and how the behavioral impact of genotype disclosure can be disentangled from the impact of numerical risk estimates generated by genetic tests. Secondary data analyses are presented from a randomized controlled trial of 162 first-degree relatives of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) patients. Each participant received a lifetime risk estimate of AD. Control group estimates were based on age, gender, family history, and assumed ε4-negative apolipoprotein E (APOE) genotype; intervention group estimates were based upon the first three variables plus true APOE genotype, which was also disclosed. AD-specific self-reported behavior change (diet, exercise, and medication use) was assessed at 12 months. Behavior change was significantly more likely with increasing risk estimates, and also more likely, but not significantly so, in ε4-positive intervention group participants (53% changed behavior) than in control group participants (31%). Intervention group participants receiving ε4-negative genotype feedback (24% changed behavior) and control group participants had similar rates of behavior change and risk estimates, the latter allowing assessment of the independent effects of genotype disclosure. However, collinearity between risk estimates and ε4-positive genotypes, which engender high-risk estimates, prevented assessment of the independent effect of the disclosure of an ε4 genotype. Novel study designs are proposed to determine whether genotype disclosure has an impact upon behavior beyond that of numerical risk estimates.
This study evaluates the Alzheimer disease risk perceptions of individuals who accurately recall their genetics-based Alzheimer disease risk assessment.
Two hundred forty-six unaffected first-degree relatives of patients with Alzheimer disease were enrolled in a multisite randomized controlled trial examining the effects of communicating APOE genotype and lifetime Alzheimer disease risk information.
Among the 158 participants who accurately recalled their Alzheimer disease risk assessment 6 weeks after risk disclosure, 75 (47.5%) believed their Alzheimer disease risk was more than 5% points different from the Alzheimer disease risk estimate they were given. Within this subgroup, 69.3% believed that their Alzheimer disease risk was higher than what they were told (discordant high), whereas 30.7% believed that their Alzheimer disease risk was lower (discordant low). Participants with a higher baseline risk perception were more likely to have a discordant-high risk perception (P < 0.05). Participants in the discordant-low group were more likely to be APOE ε4 positive (P < 0.05) and to score higher on an Alzheimer disease controllability scale (P < 0.05).
Our results indicate that even among individuals who accurately recall their Alzheimer disease risk assessment, many people do not take communicated risk estimates at face value. Further exploration of this clinically relevant response to risk information is warranted.
risk recall; risk perception; Alzheimer disease; genetic susceptibility testing
Perceived risk is a complex concept that influences the genetic counseling process and can affect client coping and behavior. Although the association between family history and risk perception is well recognized in the literature, no studies have explored this relationship specifically in those seeking genetic susceptibility testing for a common chronic condition. REVEAL is a randomized trial assessing the impact of APOE disclosure and genetic risk assessment for Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Using baseline REVEAL data, we hypothesized that there would be a significant association between the degree of AD family history and risk perception of AD, and that this relationship would be stronger in those who believed that genetics is a very important AD risk factor. In our sample of 293 participants, we found that a higher self-perceived risk of AD was associated with strength of family history of AD (p<0.001), belief in genetics as an important AD risk factor (p<0.001), being female (p<0.001) and being Caucasian (p=0.02). These results are the first to demonstrate the association between family history and risk perception in persons volunteering for genetic susceptibility testing for a common complex disease.
Risk perception; Alzheimer’s disease; APOE; Genetic susceptibility testing; Risk assessment