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Should I Rely on Direct-to-Consumer Genomic Testing or Ask My Doctor?

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If you're concerned about a predisposition genetic issue, should you rely on direct-to-consumer genomic testing or should you ask your doctor?

You've seen the commercials on TV about purchasing a DNA testing kit for ancestry or medical information. And, maybe, you've seen them on shelves at your local pharmacy. But are the results reliable?

There are direct-to-consumer genome tests that claim to test for general health risks, sensitivity to medicine, whether you are a genetic condition carrier, or for specific conditions. Some direct-to-consumer DNA testing kits test for only one of these, others test for more than one or all of them.

Even if they can claim accurate results, to be 100% sure would be difficult without knowing anything about you, not clinically validating the tests, and offering, at times, contradictory results.

Incomplete Knowledge

Let's say one gene that was isolated has information that you are predisposed to having, for example, cystic fibrosis. According to Harvard Medical School,

"Even diseases caused by a single gene, such as cystic fibrosis, are influenced by other genes that can affect, for example, the condition's severity".

In other words, those influencer genes, if taken care of through good diet and exercise, can lessen the severity of the cystic fibrosis gene, lessening your symptoms.

The same holds for heart disease, diabetes, or cancer. To assess your risk factor for these diseases without taking your lifestyle into account doesn't make this test 100% accurate.

Other hereditary factors have to be answered, such as if your father had a heart attack, how old was he? Did it occur when he was 45 or 85?

Tests Should Be Clinically Validated

The point for these direct-to-consumer DNA testing businesses is to make money. They are not going to take the time to clinically validate the tests without charging a lot more money.

When you get the results back, do you know if the tests may have been contaminated, performed properly, or interpreted correctly? The answer is no.

This is probably why insurance companies do not cover the expense of these direct-to-consumer tests.

Results Can Be Contradictory

If you get two tests from two different companies, you may get two different results. How does that happen?

Different companies may look at different sets of variants, linked to a disease or condition, to draw their conclusions. The interpretation may be whether that particular variant will cause the disease or not. Criteria may change from company to company as well.

Consumer Reports: Truth About DNA Tests

Conclusion

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends

"While direct-to-consumer tests can lead to consumers becoming more engaged in their overall health and lifestyle decisions, results from direct-to-consumer tests should not be the sole basis of any type of medical decision-making as these tests provide only one layer of a bigger picture. Therefore, results from direct-to-consumer tests should always be discussed with your health care provider".

"In addition, these tests are not a substitute for visits to a health care provider for recommended screenings or appropriate follow-up and should not be used to determine any treatments".

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

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