Health Ministry warns of consumer genetic test risks to guide expectations

1 month ago 18

SINGAPORE - As consumer genetic testing takes off in Singapore, the Health Ministry (MOH) is doubling down on efforts to warn people of the risks.

These include the possibility that test results are not backed by strong scientific evidence, or that testing companies may sell genetic data to third-party organisations, it said.

To raise awareness, the ministry has run ongoing social media advertisements urging caution since December last year. This followed the publication of a 13-page guidance document for testing companies last May and a separate advisory for consumers last August.

The aim is to guide consumers' expectations and help the public make safer decisions, given that such tests have been more widely advertised in recent years, an MOH spokesman told The Straits Times.

Consumer genetic tests claim to offer personalised insights on an individual's genetic make-up including ancestry, skin type and fitness profile.

These services are offered by overseas businesses such as 23andMe and Circle DNA, as well as firms with offices in Singapore such as Imagene Labs, e-beauty and easyDNA.

Customers are typically sent a kit with instructions on how to collect a saliva sample, which is then mailed back to the firm for processing.

The MOH spokesman said it does not track the number of consumer genetic test providers in Singapore and has not received any complaints to date.

While genetic tests used in healthcare settings are evaluated and registered by the Health Sciences Authority, those sold directly to consumers are not regulated, she added.

Its HealthWatch website cautions people to be wary of claims that sound too good to be true and to read the fine print before taking any test: "Be cautious in interpreting the genetic test results, which may not always be reliable. Talk to your doctor before making any health decisions."

Dr David Klinzing, general manager of Imagene Labs, said its test reports are written in consultation with subject matter experts, in a way that makes them easily understood and acted on by the average person. It offers a variety of tests, ranging from t...

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