Although home DNA tests are widely available, experts say people should view results as probabilities at best rather than hard science.
In addition to ancestry results, actual markers for health conditions may surface, evoking a new level of awareness for individuals, according to an American Cancer Society press release. Such information may prove hard to grasp for the consumer and/or may unearth unexpected results, the release said.
As a result, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates marketing. In November, the agency announced plans to simplify product review with the goal of cooperating with manufacturing and distribution entities. Accordingly, professionals advise caution, preparation and proactive response when using home DNA tests, the release said.
Emory University genetic counselor Christine Stanislaw said in the release that these tests are less precise than laboratory tests, they can inadvertently create anxiety in the case of false positives for disease markers and they come with no practitioner support in case of difficult disclosures.
Stanislaw recommended that any individuals who obtain results pointing to a health problem should follow up with a genetic counselor and arrange for more comprehensive testing through their health care provider.
“I tell my friends if they want to get tested just for fun, that’s great, but I caution them against using results to alter their lifestyle or make assumptions related to health risks,” she said in the release, adding that those with family histories of certain genetically linked disorders such as cancer should consider genetic counseling.