European network for Public Health Genomics (PHGEN)
This network aims to identify areas, issues, impacts and needs for European
public health policies arising from or relating to PHG.
Although testing for inherited susceptibility on the basis of common risk
alleles is premature for most diseases, the situation may be very different in
2-3 years time.
Appropriate guidelines are needed to help physicians advise patients
considering this form of genetic testing as to how to interpret, and when to
act on, the results as they become more stable.
The PHGEN is working to develop EU guidelines on quality assurance for
and provision/use of PHG information and technologies.
Genomic health determinants
Nearly every disease has constitutive and/or acquired genetic components. We
can achieve a more thorough understanding of many common illnesses by
genomic patterns underlying disease susceptibility
- acquired somatic genomic mutations underlying a specific disease and
shaping its individual clinical phenotype, eg cancer
This information can be used to diagnose diseases and identify new
treatments or more specific drug targets.
However, because of the time taken to responsibly assess the evidence of
benefits and risks for testing of any new genomic pattern possibly linked to a
disease, there is a time lag between the publication of newly
discovered genomic markers for diseases affecting public health and their
possible implementation in public health practice.
Genomic testing – privacy implications
Genomic testing may provide information on individual susceptibility
and protective genomic patterns against specific diseases. In future it
could form the basis for personalised prevention and medical treatment and
Having such information available also raises ethical, social and legal
concerns – if it is used outside the sphere protected by medical
confidentiality, such as in life and health insurance.
The implications of developments in modern genomics for occupational and
other areas of modern molecular medicine, including biomedical and health
research, continue to be monitored at EU level.