AUG 20, 2017 1:54 PM PDT

How Reliable is At-Home DNA Testing?

WRITTEN BY: Xuan Pham

In early April 2017, the FDA made a historic decision to approve 10 genetic tests by 23andme for direct-to-consumer use. The ruling meant that any person curious about their personal genetic predisposition to 10 relatively well-known diseases can now do it in the comfort of their own home, sans physician referrals. Among the list of approved at-home tests are Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease.

But consumers beware - the tests and the results are not always 100 percent accurate. Aside from the typical problems with user error or laboratory error, the results of these DNA tests are have limitations in their interpretations. Specifically, the laboratory only analyzes a small percentage of a consumer's DNA. Furthermore, that limited portion of DNA is compared against a limited database of DNA profiles. Consequently, the results come with many asterisks and qualifiers, which may not be accurately interpreted by a general consumer.

And accurate interpretation really matters when dealing with results for serious diseases. Although consumers now have more options for at-home genetic tests, it's still recommended that they seek help from trained genetic counselors in interpreting these results, as it relates to their health.
About the Author
  • I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at TheGeneTwist.com.
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