If your home DNA kit reveals you have a high risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, don’t panic. Seek a second opinion instead.
While consumer DNA tests offer convenience and peace of mind, they’re not always accurate. Plus, the results can be easy to misinterpret, leading to unnecessary worry and confusion. That’s why the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises people to take data obtained from direct-to-consumer tests with a grain of salt.
This isn’t to say over-the-counter genetic testing is all bad. So long as you don’t take the data as gospel, they can give you some useful insight into your health.
Let’s compare at-home genetic testing with clinical DNA testing.
Limitations of Personal DNA Testing
The number of cheap, accessible, at-home lab tests grows by the day. For $200 or less, brands such as DNAFit, Circle, Nebula and 23andMe offer customers genetic insights that they can use to make better health decisions. For example, a test could reveal that you’re genetically predisposed to cancer, Alzheimer’s or other diseases. Armed with this information, you can take proactive steps to protect yourself by changing your diet, exercising more, or taking preventative medication. Some tests can even determine paternity results, though they won’t be legally admissible in court. (More on that later.)
These tests are easy to administrate, typically requiring that you mail a saliva sample to the company. You’ll receive a full report within a couple of weeks.
It’s fast, simple and relatively affordable.
However, a growing number of experts have called the reliability of over-the-counter testing into question. In the CDC’s three-tiered evidence classification of genomic tests, at-home tests are “tier 3,” meaning “there’s no evidence for clinical validity…”.
“For the most part, data on personal genomic testing have revealed little or no harms but also little or no health benefits,” the agency states.
The Food and Drug Administration also urges consumers accept results with a healthy amount of skepticism, stating “Not all direct-to-consumer genetic test companies test for the same set of variants, and therefor may provide different results for the same disease or condition.”
Personal genetic testing may even cause an unwanted scare. For example, a test promising to analyze BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes for mutations could point toward hereditary breast and ovarian cancers without providing the full picture. Some mutations are of “uncertain significance” and should warrant further investigation, cautions The Lancet.
In fairness to at-home testing companies, they do provide disclaimers and encourage people to seek advice from medical professionals to validate results.
Other experts have called into question what exactly private companies intend to do with all this private data from personal testing kits. That, too, should give people pause.
Guidelines for Using Personal Genetic Tests
If you’re going to use an at-home DNA test lab:
- Look for products with the FDA stamp of approval
- See if the product has the backing of medical organizations in the genomics field
- Check the fine print for what the company intends to do with your data
- Find products that offer professional consultations to help make sense of the results
At-Home DNA Results Not Legally Permissible
If you need a DNA test for a legal matter such as determining paternity, infidelity or immigration, results from an at-home test will not be permitted in court. That’s because the DNA collection process for court-admissible evidence is more rigorous, requiring a DNA sample collector to witness the testing process and verify the identities of participants, among other measures to ensure integrity.
Lab Testing is More Reliable
Take charge of your health and wellness and get results you can trust. ARCpoint Labs of Martinez sends all tests to AABB-accredited laboratories for analysis to comply with government regulations, making results court-admissible. And for wellness solutions, our clinical and diagnostic tests can reveal important information about your health, including:
- Food allergies
- Weight loss
- Heart health
Our DNA and blood-testing services can reveal a lot about your body, and you can take confidence in the results. These tests will give you actionable insights to prevent disease, manage weight and maintain health. And because certain health matters are urgent, you can expect results in as little as 24 hours.
Get the health answers you need and results you can trust by turning to the DNA and blood-testing professionals at ARCpoint Labs of Martinez. To schedule your appointment, call (925) 957-6870 today.