Health & Science

What to Know About DNA Home-Testing Kits

Consumer Reports looked at what to know before you swab your DNA

NBC Universal, Inc.

At-home DNA test kits like 23andMe have been around for years. In fact, according to a recent Consumer Reports survey, about 20% of Americans have taken a genetic test, many in the hopes of finding answers about their family origins or potential health problems.

But, as CR explains, although you might take the test for fun, the results can be serious.

Though some of these tests can help determine if you’re likely to develop diseases such as breast cancer or Alzheimer’s, they could also give you a false sense of relief — or fear.

While a positive result can mean you have a higher risk of a certain disease, a negative result doesn’t necessarily mean you’re out of the woods -- there could be other variants that can cause that disease that are not detected by the test.

23andMe officials said it clearly explains test limitations to users.

While DIY DNA tests can be helpful, some may find the results confusing, misleading or upsetting.

In the CR survey, about 10% of people who used the tests said their reports contained unsettling information, including news that someone thought to be a biological relative wasn’t actually related at all.  

If you think the kits are going to give you a complete picture of your ancestry and your health, you may be disappointed, and there's also the possibility that it could reveal information you may not even want to know about your family.

Bottom line: A DIY DNA test kit might be right for you as long as you understand what your results may or may not signify.

Consumer Reports would also like to remind people that there are very few laws that regulate what a company can do with your genetic data once they receive it, so it could be sold to a third party without you ever knowing about it.

Contact Us