In this study, participants with a family history of melanoma, or a history of CDKN2A mutation (a gene known to cause a predisposition for melanoma), were given genetic tests and counseled about their risk and ways to reduce it. Then, they were given watch-like devices that measured sun exposure, and their skin pigmentation due to tanning was recorded with a laser.
The study showed that participants who received this counseling lowered their sun exposure, and were less tan than they had previously been at a follow-up appointment one year later. Interestingly, even the patients who merely received the genetic counseling and did not get their genetic test results followed this trend.
One of the study’s co-authors said that "previously, it was thought genetic testing wouldn't matter because members of high-risk families already knew about their risk and were already being advised to reduce their sun exposure”, but genetic testing and risk counseling actually did motivate the participants to greatly reduce their sun exposure. It seems that once the risk was made more personal instead of just familial, it became more real to the participants in order to make them actually take active steps to reduce their risks.
The authors say that their study will help to guide genetic counselors in developing the optimal strategies to make their patients take action against their genetic risk factors.
This study relates to people finding their genetic risk of certain diseases through 23andMe because it shows that genetic testing such as 23andMe can drive people to take preventative measures, and serve as a motivator for them to do so even if they have a family history and probably should be careful already. However, it also shows that genetic counseling is even more effective than receiving test results, and so that if people truly want to minimize their risks for all genetic diseases 23andMe might not be their best option and they should likely go to a medical professional for genetic testing and counseling.