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Genes are no crystal ball for disease risk

Deciphering a person’s genetic instruction book doesn’t predict medical future

1:24pm, April 3, 2012

CHICAGO — The human genetic instruction book is as lousy at predicting disease as an almanac is at predicting the weather, a prominent cancer researcher concludes from an analysis of the genetic data from thousands of pairs of identical twins.

A technological revolution has made deciphering genetic instruction books, called genomes, quicker and cheaper than ever before. Many scientists have touted the genome as a crystal ball for peering into people’s medical futures. But Bert Vogelstein of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine wondered just how informative knowing a person’s genetic makeup could be.

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