Those Genes Look Good on You

Three generations of a large family are having a meal together.At-home DNA genetic testing kits are all the rage right now. According to industry estimates published by MIT Technology Review, the number of people who’ve had their DNA analyzed by direct-to-consumer genetic genealogy tests doubled in 2017 and has exceeded 12 million customers. Depending on the brand of tests, consumers can download their report, giving them access to their genetic ancestry.

Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) is in every living thing. It consists of adenine (A), guanine (G), thymine (T) and cytosine (C). They exclusively pair as A to T and C to G. These pairs of bases, sugars and phosphates send messages to proteins with instructions on a task to perform, like growing hair. DNA makes us who we are from hair and eye color, to height and weight. Additionally, studying your DNA can give you a look at your ancestors.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when considering a direct-to-consumer test:

  • Review the different types of tests: Do your research on the variety of tests available and what exactly the test will scan for. Some tests include information about your risk for diseases like diabetes, breast cancer, prostate cancer or Parkinson’s disease.
  • Involve a medical professional: Positive or negative tests results may require additional testing. A consultation with a health provider can help map out your plans for further screening.
  • Who sees these results and what do they mean: According to the National Society of Genetic Counselors, before sending in your DNA, it’s important to know what you want to do with your genetic information, the privacy conditions of the testing company, and whether your DNA will be associated with personal information.

Because DNA is passed from parent to child, it’s important to be familiar with your family’s medical history. By noticing patterns of disorders among relatives, your physician may determine whether an individual, other family members or future generations may be at an increased risk of developing a particular condition. Talk to your primary care physician to find out more about your family history and the benefits of genetic information.