Review finds communicating genetic risks does not change health behaviour

DNApublicdomain BMPA systematic review led by researchers at the Behaviour and Health Research Unit (BHRU), published in the BMJ, has found the most conclusive evidence to date that communicating the results of DNA tests has little or no impact on behaviour change, such as stopping smoking or increasing physical activity.

The authors reviewed the results of 18 randomised controlled trials on the effects of communicating genetic risk estimates of a range of diseases for which behaviour change could reduce that risk. The results showed no significant effects of communicating DNA based risk estimates on smoking cessation, diet, or physical activity. There were also no effects on any other behaviours (alcohol use, medication use, sun protection behaviours, and attendance at screening or behavioural support programmes).

These results are timely, given high levels of interest in personalised medicine and increasing use of direct-to-consumer testing for a range of common complex disorders. They mean that existing evidence does not support expectations that such interventions could play a major role in motivating behaviour change to improve population health.

The impact of communicating genetic risks of disease on risk-reducing health behaviour: systematic review with meta-analysis. Hollands, French, Griffin, Prevost, Sutton, King, Marteau. 2016

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