Gene test adds little to diabetes risk analysis

By Gene Emery

BOSTON (Reuters) - Gene tests may be no better for predicting diabetes risk than having a doctor ask some old-fashioned questions about weight, smoking status and family history, according to two studies published on Wednesday.

Both studies published in the New England Journal of Medicine looked at more than 16 genes linked to type 2 diabetes and found that the information they provided was no better than traditional risk factors, including blood sugar levels.

“The results suggest that ‘personalized medicine’ that is made possible by the expanded understanding of genetics is not yet as useful for the prediction of the risk of diabetes in adults as it is for other potential applications,” such as predicting how patients will respond to drugs, wrote one team, led by Dr. James Meigs of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.

His team looked at 18 sites on the human genome and followed 2,377 people taking part in a larger medical study for 28 years. Genes pointed to diabetes in just 4 percent of the volunteers.

“The measurements your physician makes in a standard checkup tell you what you need to know about your type 2 diabetes risk, and genetics doesn’t tell you much more,” Meigs said in a statement.

The second study found that examining 16 genetic sites on more than 18,800 Swedish and Finnish volunteers “has a small effect on the ability to predict the future development of type 2 diabetes.”

“Although this effect might be too small to allow for individual risk prediction, it could be useful in reducing the number of subjects who would need to be included in intervention studies aimed at the prevention of type 2 diabetes,” Dr. Valeriya Lyssenko of Malmo University Hospital in Sweden and colleagues wrote.

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