Genetic Testing: Is it Right for You?

Genetic Testing: Is it Right for You?

In a world where you can get pretty much anything you want by simply pressing a button, it is no wonder why genetic testing has become so popular. It used to be that if you wanted to find out about your family tree you would have to converse with rows of relatives and scour piles of local records to piece together info. Now, a sample of saliva DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid, a long chemical chain which determines how every cell acts and grows) is all it takes to run your unique code through a database. You can find a whole host of family info way beyond any manual searching you would have attempted in the past. But is genetic testing right for you?

Clinical Application

Genetic testing has been studied for decades but only recently has it become more popular as a DTC or direct-to-consumer option. However, there are many variants to genetic testing.

According to a Universal Genetic Testing Market 2018 Research Report,

“Genetic testing involves various medical tests that help us identify changes in chromosomes, genes, or proteins. The genetic tests can confirm or rule out a suspected genetic condition and it can help determine a person’s probability of developing a genetic disorder or passing on the same to next generation.”

There are 6 types of scientific genetic tests:

  • Diagnostic – May identify current disease potential
  • Carrier – Asymptomatic disease gene carrier detection
  • Pre-natal – Offered during pregnancy to discern possible disease of the fetus
  • Newborn – Testing of a newborn to determine and possibly treat future disease
  • Pharmacogenomic – How certain medicines are processed by an individual’s body
  • Research – To learn more about how genes affect health and disease

These genetic tests are mostly used in clinical settings for serious possibilities that may affect you or a family member’s health. They have enabled many people to make hard decisions that, most believe, inevitably enhance quality of life. Some consumer driven companies offer a general health screening of your DNA that looks for a certain number of (not all) potential, future or current, health risks. These tests should always be taken with skepticism as the margin for error is high and, if taken, results should be shared with your physician.

Genetic DTC testing is different. It looks into your genealogy or ancestral line bringing to light many possibilities regarding where you came from, who you’re related to and how you got where you are. 

Direct-to-Consumer Choices

There are usually three options for DTC genetic testing which are:

  • Autosomal – This is the most popular DTC test as it can determine DNA you inherited from every line in your family tree. It can estimate your true ethnicity as well as global regions your ancestors lived within the last several hundred years. Distant relatives are often matched through this test.
  • YDNA – Used only for males (Y chromosome) to investigate a direct paternal line that can be traced back thousands of years.
  • mtDNA – A maternal line is created through this test which investigates mitochondrial DNA also able to span centuries for your mother’s lineage. 

Combining some or all three of these genealogy genetic tests will enable you to sift through the many people that led to your existence. It is truly a remarkable science that may very well enhance your life with new relationships or questions finally answered. Yet, in such a beginning stage of the genetic testing industry, you may want to consider some concerning possibilities that could arise.

Laying It On The DNA Line

Nowadays personal privacy seems to be more essential than ever before. The digital age, still in its floundering youth, is still a nest of potential thieves that can cause anything from a minor inconvenience to a national security risk. Therefore, it is understandable why you may not want offer your DNA to unknown waters. If you are considering it, look into the security a genetic testing site offers then research reviews.

Some ways your DNA can be used:

Marketing and advertising – Basically this is already happening every time you use a personal digital device. However, through your DNA info companies may be able to determine products that may fit your “DNA personality type”. In addition, you may even be exposed to advertising pertaining to a particular doctor or treatment according to your possible future health risk outcome.

Crime – If you touched something and it ends up in a crime scene your DNA could get a hit on a criminal database. This happened in the conviction of a retired police officer who took a genealogy test and was found out to be a serial killer though unorthodox but allegedly legal genealogy crime investigation.

Discrimination – There have been some reports of companies getting hold of possible employee’s DTC DNA tests (often through Facebook postings the consumer irresponsibly shares) to determine long term health status. Some may not get the job because their DNA cites high probability of developing, say, Parkinson’s disease which could pose future liability for the company. However, in 2008, Congress enacted the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act to protect people from discrimination by their health insurance provider or employer. So keep that in your back pocket.

Family upheaval – DNA doesn’t lie and an innocent genealogy search could, and has, opened family secrets of infidelity, adoption and abandonment (to name a few).

Cloning – Some theorize that DNA can be stored and later used to develop either actual humans or, more probably, AI (artificial intelligence) robotic humans.   

On top of security concerns, genetic testing could get expensive, especially when there is “up selling” involved. You may take a simple test run paying a nominal fee but after you receive your results become sucked into more testing for deeper info which could get pricey. The range is roughly $100-$2,000 however your insurance company may cover some of DNA testing.

Maybe you’re just curious or want to be cautious regarding the lineage of a family disease, either way determining if genetic testing is right for you is a personal choice. You may want to seek out the advice of a professional geneticist or even a genetic counselor to help navigate your decision.