Perceived Impact of Diabetes Genetic Risk Testing Among Patients at High Phenotypic Risk for Type 2 Diabetes

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OBJECTIVERapid advances in diabetes genetic epidemiology may lead to a new era of “personalized medicine” based on individual genetic risk assessment. There is minimal experience to guide how best to clinically implement such testing so that results (e.g., “higher” or “lower” relative genetic risk) improve rather than reduce patient motivation for behavior change.RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODSBetween November 2009 and May 2010, we conducted in-depth interviews with 22 overweight participants at high phenotypic risk for type 2 diabetes to explore perceptions of diabetes genetic risk testing compared with currently available prediction using nongenetic risk factors (e.g., family history, abnormal fasting glucose, obesity). We used hypothetical scenarios to specifically investigate the impact of both “higher” and “lower” relative genetic risk results on participants’ views about diabetes prevention.RESULTSMany participants conferred a unique value on personal genetic risk information relative to nongenetic risk based on the perceived scientific certainty and durability of genetic results. In contrast, other participants considered their genetic risk within the overall context of their other measured risk factors. Reactions to diabetes genetic test results differed by current motivation levels. Whereas most subjects reported that “higher” risk results would motivate behavior change, subjects with lower current motivation often reported that “lower” genetic risk results would further reduce their motivation to engage in diabetes prevention behaviors.CONCLUSIONSTo be effective, future clinical implementation of type 2 diabetes genetic risk testing should be individualized based on each patient’s risk perception and current level of motivation to prevent diabetes.

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