Yahoo Japan to sell genetic test kit to general public


Internet giant Yahoo Japan Corp. will market to the general public a medical test kit intended to help individuals identify their genetic risk for contracting various diseases, officials said Thursday.

Acknowledging criticism of making genetic tests readily available to consumers, Yahoo Japan defended its planned online sale of the kit from December.

“It is the No. 1 firm in Japan in the field that conducts analyses,” an official said. “A groundbreaking product good for preventive medicine will be made available at a low price.”

The test kit, which is priced at ¥29,800, was developed by Tokyo-based genetic analysis specialist Genesis Healthcare Co. Yahoo Japan projects sales of 300 units a month.

Using the kit, consumers are directed to send saliva samples to Genesis Healthcare, which will analyze 68 genes and report back any genetic predispositions to certain ailments, such as stroke or gout.

The firm will also advise customers on lifestyle changes that would reduce their risk of developing diseases they are genetically susceptible to. It will take about two months to obtain results.

Yahoo Japan will play only a marketing role and will not handle any data from the analyses, the officials said.

Although the product can be beneficial in helping people change their habits to reduce disease risk, there is the chance of discrimination if the results are obtained by third parties, a university professor specializing in genetic analysis cautioned.

The results could also contain information the customers may not want to know, the professor said.

In March, a committee of the Japanese Association of Medical Sciences said the law on sales of genetic test kits to general consumers is ambiguous.

Consumers are left to themselves to evaluate the credibility of genetic tests and associated risks.