Over The Counter DNA Test Coming To a Walgreens Near You

By Vicky Nguyen
|  Wednesday, May 12, 2010  |  Updated 6:34 AM PDT
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Over The Counter DNA Test Coming To a Walgreens Near You

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San Diego-based Pathway Genomics will start selling its "Insight" personal genetic testing kits in Walgreens nationwide this Friday.

Just spit and send. The kits cost $20 to $30. For another $250, you can get a detailed report that shows whether you have the genetic markers for more than 70 different diseases, including Parkinson's, breast cancer and heart disease.

But how reliable are the results? And what do you do with them?

"The dangers of the test is that it projects this is a crystal ball, that you'll actually learn useful and actionable things from the test," says Professor David Winickoff of UC Berkeley. " That's just misleading."

He says just because you have a marker for a disease doesn't mean you will develop that disease. Likewise, if you get a clean bill of health, don't switch out the broccoli for Cheetohs.

"They're very complex diseases and they're caused by a large number of genes, and probably a large range of enviornmental factors," Winickoff said. "Simply to have one marker correlated with a disease tells you very little. It might tell u you have a 1-2% greater chance of getting the disease.

"Most of health is determined by environmental factors like nutrition, exercise and having [regular medical] check-ups."

Winickoff says the "original genetic test" is still a good one -- your family history of disease.

If you do try the test, Winickoff recommends taking the results to your doctor or a genetic counselor to understand what the results really mean.

The FDA has not approved the tests, which are also done online by Navigenics and 23andMe.

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