Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Join as a sustainer and support independent local news for your community.

Your Verdict On Getting A Genome Test? Bring It On

Each strand of DNA is written in a simple language composed of four letters: A, T, C and G.
Each strand of DNA is written in a simple language composed of four letters: A, T, C and G.

The news that the cost of personal genome sequencing will soon drop as low as $1,000 has generated a quite a bit of interest and concern — from medical researchers, biotech companies, bioethicists and the average consumer alike.

NPR's Rob Stein explored many of the implications of this technology in his four-part series "The $1,000 Genome." They're complicated, to say the least.

How many people out there would be willing to get their entire genome mapped? And are they prepared for the revelations it could make about their health and risk for disease?

So we decided to ask you, readers of Shots, in an online survey we added to Stein's posts from the series. The survey is certainly not scientific. But given the interest in the series, we thought a few questions would be worth a try. It turns out the respondents leaned strongly in favor of the tests, and the insight they may lend to understanding health.

First, we asked: "Would you have your genome sequenced if you could afford it?"

Of the 6,627 people who participated, 81 percent said yes. About 10 percent were undecided, while 9 percent said no.

Next, we asked, "If you had your genome sequenced, would you want to know everything?" As Stein reported, even James Watson, who shared a Nobel Prize for discovering the structure of DNA, told the researchers who sequenced his genome that he didn't want to know the test's prediction for Alzheimer's. "There's nothing you can do to prevent it, so why would you want to know?" Watson said.

About 5,400 people weighed in on this question, and the majority (74 percent) said would they would want all the details, while 16 percent said they would not and 10 percent said they weren't sure.

So, it seems among the people who weighed in on Shots at least, most welcome the arrival of this tool, and are hungry to learn from it. That's despite the possibility of discovering some unsavory risks they hadn't anticipated.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

You make NHPR possible.

NHPR is nonprofit and independent. We rely on readers like you to support the local, national, and international coverage on this website. Your support makes this news available to everyone.

Give today. A monthly donation of $5 makes a real difference.