5 Things You Need To Know Before Taking an At-Home Genetic Test

    DNA is what makes us who we are. In humans, our genetic makeup is 99.9 percent similar to the person next to us, but that tiny 0.1 percent difference is what makes each of us unique — providing us with traits such as eye and hair color, height, and even disease.

    Genetic testing is now available for over 2,000 conditions from over 500 different laboratories, according to the National Institutes of Health. As genomic technology grows at a rapid pace, testing that was once reserved for newborn screening exams and a handful of genetic disorders is now commercialized.

    It’s simple: order, spit, ship, and wait.

    Prior to April 2017, genetic testing was limited to medical professionals who were testing their patients for certain inherited traits and disorders. With the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of the first ever direct-to-consumer test for MaxGen Labs Coupon, the company 23andMe can not only sell commercial DNA kits to determine ancestry, but they can test for 500,000 genetic variants to assess for risk of developing any one of 10 diseases. You can do this in the privacy of your home. But should you?

    Here are 5 questions to ask before ordering a home genetic testing kit.

    1. Is this test right for me?

    Be an informed consumer. Experts recommend seeking professional genetic counseling even before ordering the kit to better understand the implications and limitations of the results. Since the process of developing a disease is much more complicated than just the presence or absence of a certain gene, seeking out the expertise of a genetic professional can aid with putting the results into context based on your family history and medical problems.

    2. What am I being tested for?

    In the only commercially available direct-to-consumer test currently available, 23andMe assesses your genetic risk for a few different diseases.

    • Parkinson’s disease
    • Alzheimer’s disease (late onset)
    • Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency (affects the lungs and liver)
    • Hereditary thrombophilia (affects blood clotting)

    “The Alzheimer’s Association believes you need to think thoroughly before getting a genetic test,” says chief science officer of the Alzheimer’s Association Maria C. Carrillo, Ph.D. “There are 100s of genes for the Alzheimer’s disease. So, it’s important for people to know the test is only looking for one gene that has the highest risk for Alzheimer’s.

    If there are other diseases you are concerned about, speak with your doctor or a genetic counselor who is capable of ordering specialized testing.

    3. Will these tests predict my future?

    No, the current test offered does not have the capability to diagnose you with a certain disease. It can only inform you of your genetic risk, but not overall risk. Keep in mind DNA is not the sole determinant of disease. There are also gene variations, family history, lifestyle choices, and the environmental factors to consider in how genes are expressed. Just because someone has a genetic risk does not mean they will go on to develop the disease. In cases of sufficient scientific evidence, a genetic report will even be able to quantify a risk percentage. For example, having two copies of a certain gene variant raises lifetime risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease as high as 87 percent.

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