DIMENSIONS Spring 1997


Q. My mother and grandmother both have AD. Can I be tested to see if I will get it?

A. In most cases there is no genetic test to determine if a person will get AD. Most people who have AD have the late-onset form of the disease, with dementia beginning in the 70s or later. No gene has been directly linked to the late-onset form of the disease, which is by far the most common.

You may have read about a gene known as apolipoprotein E (APOE), which scientists suspect might be associated with increased risk for AD. But, for people who do not already have dementia, testing for APOE is not considered predictive in any useful way.

Fewer than 3 percent of individuals with AD come from a very limited number of families that carry a gene that causes a rare form of AD, known as early-onset. Such families have many demented individuals who are affected at a young age--before 60. In such families there may be a potential for genetic testing. Genetic testing should always be accompanied by careful, informed genetic counseling.

If your grandmother and mother each received a diagnosis of AD, were younger than 70 when dementia began, and if there are other people in your family with dementia, you may wish to call an AD research center such as the ADRC and inquire about participation in genetic studies.

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