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Last Updated: Tuesday, 14 February 2006, 10:51 GMT
Breast cancer gene insurance risk
Blood in test tube
Tests could reveal future diseases
People applying for insurance should have to disclose if they have been tested for inherited illnesses, the Daily Telegraph has reported.

The newspaper said insurers want official permission to ask customers if they have been tested for two genes linked to breast cancer.

But the Association of British Insurers (ABI) described the story as "alarmist, irresponsible and factually incorrect."

The ABI added that it had no plans to make customers disclose cancer tests.

Discrimination

The Telegraph report coincided with unions, human rights lawyers and patient groups joining together to call on the government to forbid genetic testing at work.

Breast cancer tests have not been approved by GAIC and the insurance industry has not asked for them to be so
Anna Wood, Breast Cancer Care

Testing workers for inherited illnesses could lead to discrimination in the workplace and, if insurers were to get hold of the results, the potential for future health and life insurance cover to be denied, the groups warned.

"It is unacceptable for any woman and their family in this position to have to take on the additional stress of worrying about the impact a genetic test could have on their employment and insurance prospects," Anna Wood, Campaigns Manager of Breast Cancer Care, said.

At present, insurers have to ask the Genetics and Insurance Committee (GAIC), which advises the government on the issue, for permission to request details from customers of genetic tests.

"Breast cancer tests have not been approved by GAIC and the insurance industry has not asked for them to be so," Jonathan French, ABI spokesman told BBC News.

"No application has been made to the GAIC and none would be made unless there was clear and widely accepted scientific evidence to support the value of such tests," Mr French added.

The ABI added that it had a moratorium on genetic testing in place until 2011 and the only inherited illness insurers ask their customers to disclose is Huntingdon's disease.


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