The Appeal (and Potential Risks) of At-Home DNA Tests
These tests offer insight into your lineage and personal traits – but they can also pose privacy and insurance concerns.
At-home DNA test kits have become the latest gift du jour. From 23andMe to Ancestry, over 26 million people around the globe have taken these tests, which range from $49 to $200 or more.
And there’s no sign of this trend slowing down. In fact, experts predict the consumer DNA testing industry will climb to $45 billion by 2024. An exciting opportunity to unearth your ancestral roots and take a deep dive into your DNA, mail-in tests can uncover everything from your caffeine tolerance to your propensity for certain diseases. Even so, there are important unknowns to keep in mind.
Cracking your DNA code
Most DNA testing companies reveal top genetic matches, identifying members of your biological family (as long as you’ve used the same company). MyHeritageDNA has the largest international network of family trees, and AncestryDNA, Family Tree DNA, Family Finder and 23andMe can trace both your mother’s and father’s lineages.
It’s all in the DNA details
Home DNA tests offer intriguing insight into certain traits as well. 23andMe’s Health + Ancestry kit, for instance, uncovers things like whether you’re likely to have a fear of public speaking or an aversion to cilantro. You can also learn details about your ideal caffeine consumption and preferred wake-up time.
A crime-fighting trend
Genealogy websites helped catch the Golden State killer when detectives matched DNA from the crime scenes with his distant relatives. They’ve also crossed into the health space: in 2018, 23andMe became the first company authorized to sell genetic testing for cancer without a doctor’s orders.
Genetic gold mines
Privacy concerns surround DNA kits. In 2017, 23andMe partnered with GlaxoSmithKline, giving it access to a trove of genetic data for use in developing new pharmaceuticals. Calico Life Sciences was the biggest buyer of Ancestry’s data until their partnership ended in 2018.
Word to the wise
Keep in mind that long-term care insurance, disability insurance and life insurance may deny you coverage if your genetic tests show a disposition for certain diseases and disorders.
An imperfect science
Home DNA kits are not a perfect science – a recent study showed 40% of results are likely to be false positives – and it’s important to remember that DIY DNA tests aren’t a substitute for essential health screenings.
Sources: prnewswire.com; news.bloomberglaw.com; dnacenter.com; top10.com; isogg.org; myfamilydnatest.com; 23andMe; technologyreview.com; theverge.com; npr.org; nbcnews.com; forbes.com