Before doing a DNA test
Before doing a DNA test, the U.S. Association of Genetic Counseling Experts recommends remembering three important points: DNA is not everything, it is essential to understand who we give access to our genetic information – especially in the case of tests marketed by companies – and to rely on educational resources that can be found online today.
With the FDA’s green light, it is likely that new genetic health tests will be offered to consumers, in addition to the test that already sells 23andMe, so we must take these types of tests with caution.
It is important to remember that performing a DNA test is very simple, but not interpreting its results.
That is why it is advisable to go to a specialist in Genetic Counseling or a medical professional to explain the conclusions of the test, which can offer unexpected personal data, also about the predisposition and risk of suffering a disease on the part of our relatives.
Another possibility is that we use these genetic tests to know a little better our ancestry, since certain markers in the DNA can indicate that we come from a region or another, a curious fact without major implications on health.
How is a DNA test done?
A genetic analysis can be carried out from any sample of biological origin, such as a hair, a piece of skin, blood or saliva.
In the case of commercially available DNA tests, companies usually offer a simple kit for us to insert our saliva into a small tube or make a small smear with the cells inside the cheek.
Afterwards, the tube must be returned to the company, which will analyse the genetic material and offer predictive results based on the genetic panel it studies.
Genetic Tests: Benefits, Advantages and Limitations
Performing a DNA test can be beneficial if, for example, it helps us to avoid some uncertainty or helps us to improve our lifestyle.
The positive side of genetic tests that are marketed directly is in making decisions about the individual health or the health of our relatives, in order to reduce the chances of contracting a disease.
A study recently published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology showed that people who underwent a genetic test did not subsequently change their diet or exercise habits, so it appears that it does not follow the most prominent recommendation.
Health depends on multiple factors, not just genetics, so it’s not all written in DNA.
Among the limitations of the genetic analyses that are commercialized, it is important to point out that their results are not definitive on hereditary diseases.
Receiving a Positive Result?
Receiving a positive result is not synonymous with the development of a certain pathology.
That is why it is important to rely on geneticists, medical professionals and genetic counselors who can guide us when it comes to understanding the conclusions of a DNA test.
Current evidence indicates that, although consumers can correctly interpret genetic information, they do not usually seek the advice of specialists to understand the conclusions of a DNA test.
Although genetic tests are not harmful, they can affect us economically and emotionally.
On the one hand, commercially available DNA tests can cost between 200 and 2,000 dollars, an amount that not everyone can afford. On the other hand, it is not always easy to face their conclusions.
Knowing that we ourselves or our relatives are at greater risk of suffering from a disease can generate anxiety, anger, guilt or sadness, hence we must interpret their results with caution, and always going to a specialist.
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