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December 13th, 2012
09:48 AM ET

TIME cover story explores genetic testing: risk or cure? TIME Deputy Managing Editor Nancy Gibbs: 'knowledge...that makes this such a confounding problem'

Genetic testing can offer parents vital medical information about their children's health, telling them if their kids are pre-disposed to certain diseases, and allowing them to be forewarned and forearmed. But it also poses certain risks. Parents can receive ambiguous results, possible misinformation, and threats that may never materialize. And the results may not even lead to a cure.

TIME Magazine’s new cover story, "Want to Know My Future?" explores that dual dynamic and the risks to genetic testing on kids to determine their fate. It weighs the complexities of testing with all the physical, emotional and even financial factors involved. TIME's Deputy Managing Editor, Nancy Gibbs, comes to “Starting Point” with more on the interesting cover.

Gibbs explains that “right now, doctors can test for about 2,500 medical conditions, but they only can treat about 500 of those.” The question she poses is, “so what do you do with the knowledge about the others?” This is the current dilemma.

TIME’s cover story profiles one mother, in particular, who discovers her own risk of cancer through screening her daughter for the causes of her developmental delays. “So, it’s the knowledge that you’re not looking for and may not be able to cope with that makes this such a confounding problem,” Gibbs says.

Gibbs also explains the costs behind testing. “So the original decoding of the genome cost $2.7 billion," she says. "You can now do a whole genome sequencing for about $7,500. And it’s getting cheaper all the time. And even more so, for $99 you can find out your risk for about 200 of the most commonon medical conditions.”

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Filed under: Genetic Testing • TIME