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Heart disease gene tests ineffective

Wednesday February 17th, 2010

By Jane Collingwood
The public should not be fooled into relying on gene testing to predict risk of heart disease, experts warned last night.

New research suggests that genetic tests cannot reliably predict heart disease risk.

Several genetic markers have been linked to heart disease, but their effect on risk is unclear, especially in women.

Dr Nina Paynter of Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, USA, and colleagues used figures on 19,313 initially healthy white women followed for about 12 years, during which there were 777 heart attacks, strokes or similar events.

Genetic risk score was linked to disease risk, but it was no more useful than looking at traditional factors alone.

The researchers write in the Journal of the American Medical Association, "After adjustment for traditional cardiovascular risk factors, a genetic risk score comprising 101 single nucleotide polymorphisms was not significantly associated with the incidence of total cardiovascular disease."

Professor Peter Weissberg of the British Heart Foundation said the finding undermined the value of genetic testing kits currently on the market.

He said: "Whilst genetic testing is extremely valuable for families affected by very rare diseases, the results from this large scale study of women and those from a previous British Heart Foundation-funded study show that genetic tests add nothing to our ability to predict risk of common diseases such as heart attacks, stroke and diabetes.

"For the time being I don't believe that purchasing genetic tests to predict your susceptibility to heart and circulatory disease is a good investment. The most important message for people is not to smoke, to moderate your diet, maintain a good exercise programme and to avoid becoming overweight, and if you are overweight to lose weight slowly and steadily as this will reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease."

Paynter, N. P. et al. Association between a literature-based genetic risk score and cardiovascular events in Women. The Journal of the American Medical Association, Vol. 303, February 17, 2010, pp. 631-37.

Tags: Genetics | Heart Health | North America | Women’s Health & Gynaecology

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