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Genet Test. 2003 Spring;7(1):39-44.

Differences between African Americans and Whites in their attitudes toward genetic testing for Alzheimer's disease.

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  • 1Department of Pharmacology, Morehouse School of Medicine, Altanta, Georgia, USA.


The possibility of predictive genetic testing for Alzheimer's disease (AD) has prompted examination of public attitudes toward this controversial new health-care option. This is the first study to examine differences between Whites and African Americans with regard to: (1) interest in pursuing genetic testing for AD, (2) reasons for pursuing testing, (3) anticipated consequences of testing, and (4) beliefs about testing. We surveyed a convenience sample of 452 adults (61% white; 39% African American; 78% female; mean age = 47 years; 33% with family history of AD). Both racial groups indicated general interest in predictive genetic testing for AD, viewed it as having many potential benefits, and believed it should be offered with few restrictions. However, in comparison to whites, African Americans showed less interest in testing (p < 0.01), endorsed fewer reasons for pursuing it (p < 0.01), and anticipated fewer negative consequences from a positive test result (p < 0.001). These preliminary findings show important distinctions between whites and African Americans in their attitudes toward genetic testing for AD. These differences may have implications for how different racial and ethnic groups will respond to genetic testing programs and how such services should be designed. Future research in real-life testing situations with more representative samples will be necessary to confirm these racial and cultural differences in perceptions of genetic testing.

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