5 Reasons You Should Avoid Take-Home DNA Tests
The holiday shopping season is just around the corner. And millions of Americans think they’ve found the perfect gift — DNA testing kits.
It’s easy to see why the kits from companies such as AncestryDNA, 23andMe, and MyHeritage are so popular. For less than $100, folks can discover their ancestry and uncover potentially dangerous genetic mutations. About 12 million Americans have bought these kits in recent years.
But DNA testing isn’t risk-free — far from it. The kits jeopardize people’s privacy, physical health, and financial well-being. There are five key reasons Americans should think twice before buying a DNA testing kit.
1. The results are often inaccurate. Testing kits are good at unveiling people’s ethnic lineage. However, the results are notoriously unreliable at determining whether someone has a dangerous genetic mutation. Up to “40% of variants in a variety of genes reported in (testing kit) raw data were false positives,” according to a study published in Genetics in Medicine.
In plain English, that means testing companies often mistook a harmless genetic mutation for a dangerous one. Such false alarms could cause patients significant stress and force them to undergo expensive, unnecessary, testing or procedures. Shirley Wu, a director at 23andMe, has explicitly admitted that its raw data “are not for medical or diagnostic use.”
If people want to find out their risk of developing hereditary diseases, they shouldn’t purchase an off-the-shelf kit. Instead, they should ask their doctors to order tests from reputable genetic testing companies.