If you were at a high risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, would you want to know? Breakthroughs in genetic testing have allowed doctors to determine the chances for an individual of developing the disease, long before any symptoms appear.
Knowing your risk could potentially allow you to try new experimental therapies that could slow – or even prevent – the onset of the disease, yet a variety of factors may cause people to shy away from testing. Understanding these factors could help doctors counsel those who are considering a test.
A new study entitled “Public Willingness to Undergo Presymptomatic Genetic Testing for Alzheimer’s Disease,” published in Hindawi’s open access journal Neurology Research International, investigated whether people in Saudi Arabia are willing to undergo genetic testing for Alzheimer’s disease, and the factors influencing their decision.
A total of 2,935 people completed a questionnaire on their background and family history of Alzheimer’s disease and their willingness to take genetic tests for the disease. Among respondents, 59.9% indicated that they would be happy to undergo testing.
Common reasons for accepting the test included wanting to adopt a healthy lifestyle and family planning. For those who were not willing to be tested, the most common reasons included fear of the results and the absence of a cure.
Surprisingly, when the researchers analyzed the responses, they found that people with a family history of Alzheimer’s disease were less likely to accept genetic testing, despite the potentially increased disease risk for such people. The researchers hypothesized that as these people may have seen a loved one struggle with dementia, they wanted to avoid the emotional and psychological toll of finding out that they too might develop the disease.
However, married people were more likely to accept testing. Researchers speculate this is due to being aware of their risk which may affect their decision to have children.
By demonstrating the complex factors that can affect someone’s decision to test for Alzheimer’s disease, the study could help doctors to understand their patients’ motivations and aid in counseling them before and after they decide to undergo testing.
Mohammed H. Alanazy, Khalid A. Alghsoon, Abdulaziz F. Alkhodairi, et al., “Public Willingness to Undergo Presymptomatic Genetic Testing for Alzheimer’s Disease,” Neurology Research International, vol. 2019, Article ID 2570513, 6 pages, 2019. https://doi.org/10.1155/2019/2570513
This blog post is distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC-BY). The illustration is by Hindawi and is also CC-BY.