Adult children of people with Alzheimer’s disease were satisfied and unharmed by the experience of genetic risk assessment, even when results suggested they might be at risk, according to a new study presented at the first Alzheimer’s Association’s International Conference on the Prevention of Dementia.
The study evaluated the psychological and behavioral impact of genetic risk assessment, specifically for one form of the Apolipoprotein E (APOE) gene, known as ApoE4, a well known risk marker for Alzheimer’s disease. After one year, participants in the study who were told they were either positive or negative for ApoE4, or who did not receive disclosure, had no significant difference in tests of depression and anxiety.
“There has been concern that genetic testing for Alzheimer’s disease would lead to misunderstandings, and cause depression and discrimination,” said William Thies, Ph.D., Alzheimer’s Association vice president for Medical & Scientific Affairs. “This study suggests that, with appropriate and accurate communication, genetic risk assessment doesn’t have to be a fear-filled process for people.”
According to the researchers, the REVEAL study (Risk Evaluation and Education for Alzheimer’s disease) is the first randomized trial to examine the impact of providing risk assessment, including APOE gene marker disclosure, for Alzheimer’s disease.
Scientists led by Robert C. Green, M.D., M.P.H , of Boston University School of Medicine, randomized 162 study participants from Boston into two groups; one received assessment based on age, family history, gender and disclosed APOE genotype, the other received assessment based only on age, family history and gender.