SOUTHAMPTON residents are being warned not to use home-testing kits to make health decisions.

A leading doctor at Southampton’s university hospitals has warned against using genetic testing kits and for more regulation of, and engagement with, the industry.

Professor Anneke Lucassen the consultant in clinical genetics at University Hospital Southampton has said the NHS was often left to “pick up the pieces” of flawed results.

Known as direct-to-consumer (DTC) genetic tests, some promise insights into ancestry or disease risks, while others claim to provide information on personality, athletic ability and child talent.

Also, president of the British Society for Genetic Medicine, Prof Lucassen, said: “Genetic tests sold online and in shops should absolutely not be used to inform health decisions without further scrutiny.

“Finding a “health risk” via these tests often does not mean a person will go on to develop the health problem in question, while “reassuring” results might be unreliable.”

Among the problems she has seen in recent months include people wrongly informed they have faulty genes which suggest a high risk of certain cancers.

The genetic expert added: “I do understand that people might be drawn to DTC genetic testing in the hope that it will provide clear cut information about their future health.

“However, the interpretation of genetic data is complex and context-dependent and DTC genetic tests might report false positive and false negative results which can mean the correct medical steps aren’t taken.”

A false-positive result indicates that a person has a high genetic risk of a disease or condition when they don’t.

While a false negative result indicates a person has a low genetic risk of a disease or condition when they don’t.

There is also a concern around the use of third party interpretation services, which sees consumers download and send their genetic data to other companies to analyse.

According to Prof Lucassen there is an issue with third party companies re-analysing ancestry data for health purposes which can lead to a very high false-positive rate for rare genetic variants.

Prof Lucassen said there should be more focus on raising awareness of the problems associated with consumer testing and providing advice for GPs and other clinicians.