Residents of Long Island and elsewhere in the Northeast will soon see television ads recommending they "Be ready against cancer." One might assume these to be public service announcements calling for more exercise or diets rich in antioxidants. Instead, the ads will promote a test for genes related to breast cancer.
Although this will be the first major direct-to-consumer campaign promoting genetic testing, the manufacturer of the test will not be mentioned. Instead, small text at the bottom of the screens will let viewers know the ad is a "service" of Myriad Genetics, which holds patents on the tested genes.
Myriad's test is likely to be the tip of the iceberg, and what it suggests for the future is quite alarming. We'll soon see more advertising campaigns that, like those of drugs, prey on our insecurities and fears. And unlike Myriad's test, which must be ordered through your doctor, an increasing number of these will be available over the counter and performed in the privacy - and isolation - of your own home.