January 23, 2019
bunch of swabs

The Truth About Home DNA Tests

by Berkeley Wellness  

Many people are tempted by ads for at-home (also called direct-to-consumer) genetic tests. Costing $100 to $1,000 or more, they’re easy to find on the Internet. Usually all you have to do is rub a swab inside your cheek and mail it to the company, which will scan your DNA, looking for genes and mutations that suggest increased risk for hundreds of disorders, and then send you the results—with no doctor involved. Some companies claim to provide nutritional advice based on your genetic profile, or peddle “customized” supplements that supposedly help cure disease or repair DNA damage that has been detected.

Home testing may sound appealing, but there is little or no evidence that the tests are accurate, reliable, or of any practical value. They have not been reviewed by the FDA or any other agency, unlike most physician-ordered genetic tests or many other kinds of at-home medical tests.A few years ago, investigators from the Government Accountability Office sent the same DNA sample to different home-testing companies and got inconsistent (sometimes contradictory) results.

The marketing materials for these tests often make overblown claims about how knowing what’s in your genes can improve your health. But in most cases, there’s no research showing that the results of the tests, even if they are accurate, can help prevent disease or lead to better treatment or longer lives. Responding to these concerns, the FDA has clamped down on the makers of some of these tests since 2010, asking them to submit data and get clearance in order to market them.

The science of genetic risk prediction holds great promise but, for now, steer clear of home genetic testing. If you are a good candidate for testing, have it done through a health care professional trained in genetics.