The rise of direct to consumer genetic testing kits has opened the door to a wealth of information for patients. DNA samples collected by these direct to consumer kits can gather information about where the test subject’s ancestors originated or the presence of genes that are linked to conditions like breast cancer, Parkinson’s Disease or Alzheimer’s disease. DNA testing may even be used to help tailor drugs and doses based on a patient’s genes. Advocates of these products tout the ability to be proactive about a patient’s health in that if a patient knows they are a higher risk for a disease, they may engage in lifestyle changes that help to minimize that risk. This is an important point, as home genetic test can’t tell whether or not a person will develop a disease, such as Alzheimer’s disease, only their risk. Genes are just a piece of the puzzle.

Because these tests are not definitive of a disease diagnosis, they can create a false sense of security in patients who because they do not show a genetic predisposition to a certain disease disregard other testing or treatment. Conversely, reliance on the possibility of developing a condition to be fact has the potential to lead to costly unneeded treatments.

One significant concern surrounding these test kits is privacy. Recently, results from genetic testing has been used by law enforcement to identify suspects in criminal investigations. Be sure to read the confidentiality details when using home genetic testing to see how your information may be shared or used.

Health information and technology are advancing at lightning speed. Patients are advised to consult with their healthcare professional if they are interested in the information provided by home genetic testing. Depending on the area of concern, lab testing covered by insurance may be an option. Should a patient elect to undergo home genetic testing, discussing the results with their doctor is the best way to get a clear picture of risk and how to incorporate the appropriate lifestyle changes to reduce chances of developing any of those conditions. Home genetic testing kits are never a substitute for regular health screenings or checkups.

These tests are more than a novelty, a game of “who am I?” or “where did I come from”. Having a reasonable set of expectations of information and how it impacts you is essential to making best use of the data gleaned from the test.

Written by: Beth Biedrzycki, Pharm D., BCGP

DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this article is intended solely for the general information for the reader and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnose health problems or suggest any treatment. It is not a substitute for medical care provided by a licensed and qualified health professional and does not create a physician-patient or pharmacist-patient relationship. Please consult your health care provider for any personal medical advice.