Taking at-home DNA tests has become increasingly popular over the last several years. It’s estimated that nearly 1 in every 25 adults in the U.S. now has access to their personal genetic information thanks to these testing kits.
Many people use these tests to learn about their ancestry; however, they can also provide an array of information about your health.
The human genome, which is the complete set of your genetic information, is made up of more than three billion DNA base pairs. Testing each of these DNA base pairs with an at-home kit is not possible with current technology. Instead, these kits test a sample of DNA taken from about one million different locations on the genome. Most DNA kits will test a sample of your saliva that you collect at home, then send for testing to the address provided in the instructions.
This sample can still provide valuable information regarding your health and wellness, even though it’s not a complete picture. An at-home DNA test can tell you whether or not your genes put you at a higher risk of developing health conditions like diabetes, breast cancer, autoimmune disorders, high cholesterol, or other diseases.
At-home DNA tests can also help make you aware of any genetic diseases for which you may or may not carry the genes. This can be beneficial for parents-to-be. With this information, they can determine if their children are at risk of inheriting certain genetic diseases.
The information provided by an at-home DNA test can help you make smarter healthcare decisions for your future. For example, you may find out you are at a higher risk of developing high cholesterol and decide to change your diet as a preventive measure.
In the past, DNA testing was only conducted in laboratory settings. Now, at-home DNA tests are sold at most drug and grocery stores. You can also purchase one of these kits online and have it shipped directly to your door.
Although there are numerous benefits of taking an at-home DNA test, there are still some downsides.
Many testing companies will ask you for permission to share your unique DNA data with research partners. Although some people may not mind sharing the data, others may be uncomfortable with the idea of their personal genetic information being shared. Make sure you understand what the testing company will do with your sample before submitting it.
It’s also important to note that the test results are not 100 percent accurate. One study found that 40 percent of gene variants reported in at-home DNA test results were false positives. This means insignificant genetic mutations are often reported as dangerous.
Because the results are not completely accurate, you should avoid making major health decisions based off this data alone. The best way to learn more about your health, and how to improve it, is to speak to your doctor.