Background: The identification of common genetic variants associated with common cancers including breast, prostate and ovarian cancers would allow population stratification by genotype to effectively target screening and treatment. As scientific, clinical and economic evidence mounts there will be increasing pressure for risk-stratified screening programmes to be implemented.
Methods: This paper reviews some of the main ethical, legal and social issues (ELSI) raised by the introduction of genotyping into risk-stratified screening programmes, in terms of Beauchamp and Childress's four principles of biomedical ethics--respect for autonomy, non-maleficence, beneficence and justice. Two alternative approaches to data collection, storage, communication and consent are used to exemplify the ELSI issues that are likely to be raised.
Results: Ultimately, the provision of risk-stratified screening using genotyping raises fundamental questions about respective roles of individuals, healthcare providers and the state in organizing or mandating such programmes, and the principles, which underpin their provision, particularly the requirement for distributive justice.
Conclusions: The scope and breadth of these issues suggest that ELSI relating to risk-stratified screening will become increasingly important for policy-makers, healthcare professionals and a wide diversity of stakeholders.
Keywords: cancer; consent; distributive justice; personalized screening; risk-stratified screening.
© The Author 2013. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Faculty of Public Health.