BUPA is threatening to break its self-imposed ban on using information from genetic medical tests for insurance.

The news comes in the week that the ABI updated its voluntary code on using human genetic test results in response to new guidelines issued by the Government's Genetic and Insurance Committee.

Private health insurers have for three years maintained a ban on using such results to predict customers' predisposition to certain illnesses.

The ABI code lets insurers refuse cover to people with a family history of up to seven medical conditions including Huntingdon's disease, Alzheimer's and, in women, breast cancer.

And the code insists insurers consider only those tests which the ABI deems reliable, relevant and valid.

But there is pressure for the status quo to change as the reliability of genetic testing increases.

ABI spokesman Malcolm Tarling said: “While the genetics issue is in its infancy, it will develop as the insurance industry changes. We predict more people will be tested for a wider range of medical conditions so it is important we have these guidelines in place.“

BUPA said that while it had supported the private medical insurers' ban on genetic testing it had kept the issue under constant review.

“We think that at some point we will have to take genetic tests into consideration as more is known about their reliability,“ a BUPA spokesman said.

This view contrasts sharply with the positions of other healthcare insurers such as PPP and BCWA Healthcare, which have pledged to continue their self-imposed ban.

Philip Fowles, sales director of BCWA said: “Even if genetic tests are sent to us we will not use them.“