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Keywords:

  • Tay-Sachs disease;
  • genetic screening;
  • outcomes;
  • heterozygosity;
  • follow-up

Abstract

We surveyed 264 persons (132 carriers, 132 matched noncarriers) screened for Tay-Sachs heterozygosity during 1974–76 in a program directed at senior high school students in Montreal. Among 198 who apparently received the questionnaire in 1982, the response rate was 42% (38 carriers, 45 noncarriers; age range 21–26 yr). Respondents and nonrespondents had no apparent demographic differences. Of eight unable to remember their genotype only one was a carrier (these persons were excluded from the study). The subjects were: single (75%), married (20%), engaged (3%), divorced (1%); 32% of carriers were engaged or married vs 16% of noncarriers. (There were no carrier couples in our sample, but one such couple, who married after being screened in the high school program, requested amniocentesis in 1981.) Only three of the 12 spouses or fiancé(s) of carriers have not been tested (vs 3 of 6 noncarrier partners). Only 19% of carriers now attach any “worry” to heterozygosity (vs 46% at the earlier time of test disclosure, P = 0.001); carriers with spouses or fiancé(e)s are less “worried” than unattached carriers. Only 3% of carriers claim they would change marriage plansif their fiancé(e) was also a carrier. Carriers and noncarriers uniformly approve (96%) genetic screening for themselves and for other mutant genotypes; 92% of carriers and 95% of noncarriers approve being screened in high school. These findings indicate that Canadians screened in high school: 1) have largely positive attitudes toward genetic screening long after the experience, and 2) are making appropriate use of the test result.