9 Jun 2009

Insurers issue warning on lung cancer test

6:50 pm on 9 June 2009

People who take a test to see how likely they are to get lung cancer will have to tell health insurers the results, says the group representing the industry.

Associate Professor Robert Young of Auckland, who developed the mouth swab test, says it will give people an estimate of their lung cancer risk by combining DNA results with factors such as age and family history.

Health Funds Association executive director Roger Styles says smokers already pay more for their health insurance, and it is too early to say whether premiums would be affected by test results.

College of General Practitioners president Jonathan Fox says people must consider that the results will stay on their medical records forever.

Associate Professor Young does not believe people will use the test to justify continuing to smoke if they find their risk of getting lung cancer is not very high.

The test, costing $275, will be offered to smokers and former smokers through their doctor.

Dr Fox is urging people to think carefully before taking the test, adding that doctors are likely to use the test only after trying existing methods to encourage smokers to give up.

People who take genetic tests should also have counselling, he says.