Don't Trust Those At-Home Tests; They May Be Dangerous To Your Health

You've seen them.  The ads to test yourself at home for pregnancy, diabetes, HIV.  There are also some kits out there that allow you to screen for colon and other cancers. But a new study has found this is not a reliable method of diagnosis, and it could even be dangerous.

If you do have cancer, you may miss it.

According to newswise.com, "A doctor's ability to test for cancer in its earlier stages often determines a patient's chances of survival."  These tests are being dismisssed by medical professionals because many are low-quality and they can hinder the daignosis -- and cure -- of serious diseases like cancer.

The Web site gives as an example pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC), and calls it "a grim example of this."

The majority of patients live only three to 18 months, because current diagnosis methods usually can't detect PDAC until it is too advanced to respond to treatment. "Testing for the right biomarkers—biological molecules whose presence indicates a condition or disease—could be instrumental in the early detection of cancers like PDAC," newswise.com reports.

Researchers looked into just such a kit which at first seemed remarkable, detecting pancreatic cancer in patient samples from benign disease.  But the test was looking for a different biomarker,and found the malignancy only because it actually screened for the right biomarker.  So patients could be cleared of pancreatic cancer, while actually having it. "This means that lax quality control during the manufacturing of the kit most likely caused this mix up," says newswise.com.

Most investigators rely on commercial lab kits to evaluate the potential of candidate biomarkers, according to the Web site. "This study demonstrates, though, that costly risks counter the ease of using such kits," citing one research team which lost 2 years, approximately $500,000, and thousands of valuable patient specimens, while also inadvertently raising false expectations about a potential breakthrough in PDAC testing because of the error in this lab kit," newswise.com points out.

"Reports like this one are relatively rare in the literature, since negative results are not usually published," newswise.com quotes one of the researchers involved. "However, these findings can contribute significantly to improving the quality of products intended for research purposes, and can save considerable research time and resources which would otherwise be wasted."


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