Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2014 Apr 4. [Epub ahead of print]
Cancer Screening and Genetics: A Tale of Two Paradigms.
The long-standing medical tradition to "first do no harm" is reflected in population-wide evidence-based recommendations for cancer screening tests that focus primarily on reducing morbidity and mortality. The conventional cancer screening process is predicated on finding early-stage disease that can be treated effectively; yet emerging genetic and genomic testing technologies have moved the target earlier in the disease development process to identify a probabilistic predisposition to disease. Genetic risk information can have varying implications for the health and well-being of patients and their relatives, and has raised important questions about the evaluation and value of risk information. This paper explores the paradigms that are being applied to the evaluation of conventional cancer screening tests and emerging genetic and genomic tests of cancer susceptibility, and how these perspectives are shifting and evolving in response to advances in our ability to detect cancer risks. We consider several challenges germane to the evaluation of both categories of tests including defining benefits and harms in terms of personal and clinical utility, addressing healthcare consumers' information preferences, and managing scientific uncertainty. We encourage research and dialogue aimed at developing a better understanding of the value of all risk information, non-genetic and genetic, to people's lives.
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