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Genome-wide sequencing may generate secondary findings (SFs). It is recommended that validated, clinically actionable SFs are reported back to patients/research participants. To explore publics' perspectives on the best ways to do this, we performed a vignette study among Finnish adults. Our aim was to explore how lay people react to different types of hypothetical genomic SFs. Participants received a hypothetical letter revealing a SF predisposing to a severe but actionable disease-cardiovascular disease (familial hypercholesterolemia, long QT syndrome) or cancer (Lynch syndrome, Li-Fraumeni syndrome). Participants (N = 29) wrote down their initial reactions, and discussed (N = 23) these in focus groups. Data were analyzed using inductive thematic analysis. Reactions to hypothetical SFs varied according to perceived severity and familiarity of the diseases. SFs for cancer were perceived as more threatening than for cardiovascular diseases, but less distressing than risk for psychiatric or neurological disorders, which participants spontaneously brought up. Illness severity in terms of lived experience, availability of treatment, stigma, and individual's responsibility to control risk were perceived to vary across these disease types. In addition to clinical validity and utility, SF reporting practices need to take into account potential familiarity and lay illness representations of different diseases. Illness representations may influence willingness to receive SFs, and individuals' reactions to this information.

Original publication




Journal article


J Genet Couns

Publication Date





343 - 354


Familial hypercholesterolemia, Illness representations, Incidental findings, Li-Fraumeni syndrome, Long QT syndrome, Lynch syndrome, Public perspective, Qualitative vignette study, Secondary findings, Whole genome sequencing