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DNA testing kits may answer questions but raise new ones

Home DNA test (Consumer Reports image)
Home DNA test (Consumer Reports image)
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At-home DNA test kits have been around for years, and a recent Consumer Reports survey found that about 20 percent of Americans have taken a genetic test in an effort to unearth answers about their family origins or uncover lurking health issues.

But Consumer Reports warns that those taking the test for fun could wind up with very serious results.

Though some of the tests can help determine if someone is 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 from these tests can mean you do have a higher risk of a certain disease, a negative result doesn’t necessarily mean you’re out of the woods, as there could be other variants that can cause that disease not detected by the test,’ said Consumer Reports Health Editor, Catherine Roberts.

23andMe, a testing kit company, said it tries to clearly explain the test limitations to its customers.

But according to Consumer Reports, while some find the DIY DNA tests helpful, others may find the results confusing, misleading, or upsetting.

In the Consumer Reports survey, about 10 percent of people who used these tests said their reports contained unsettling information, such as the news that someone thought to be a biological relative, isn’t actually related to them at all.

“If you think these kits are going to give you a complete picture of your ancestry and your health, you’re going to be disappointed," Roberts said. "And there is also the possibility that it could reveal information you may not even want to know about your family.”

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Consumer Reports also warns that there are very few laws that regulate what a company can do with a customer's genetic data once it's received, so it could be sold to a third party without you ever knowing about it.

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