By Cassandra Sedler
For as little as $70, anyone can purchase an at home DNA test to learn about the information contained within their genetic code.
Companies such as 23andMe and Ancestry provide customers with a personal DNA testing kit that makes the process of sequencing an entire genome basically at the customer’s fingertips, or more accurately, the insides of their cheeks.
As a result, it is now easier than ever before to learn about your ancestry, what genetic diseases you are more susceptible to, or could possibly pass on to your children.
Those joining in on the new craze of these DNA kits should not only think about the knowledge they’ll likely gain from the experience, but also the potential consequences of sending out the most private of information about themselves to a source outside of the medical industry.
Regardless of whether one participates in genetic testing from a private company like 23andMe, or to a medical professional, most quickly agree to undergo testing without considering first the fine print, or how their personal data will be secured.
Although these organizations assure their customers’ information is secure, it is certainly not impossible for hackers to gain access into such databases.
As the concept of at home genomic sequencing is still quite young, it is hard to tell if or how someone’s DNA could be used against them.
Due to the fact DNA holds such an incredibly large amount of information about a person, it could be used nefariously against that person in framing a crime, or identity theft.
Before submitting their cotton swab, customers of 23andMe or Ancestry should consider the potential risks involved.
The extent of privacy inevitably comes into question when a customer submits their DNA, more often by way of mail, to be sequenced.
Replacing a stolen credit card would be a lot simpler than retrieving confiscated DNA.
Privacy is not the only issue, but the overall accuracy of the tests themselves is also a bit misleading.
The test will provide a general area of the world with a percentage that correlates to the person’s ancestral makeup; however, the numbers are usually inaccurate because of different databases that are used across multiple private companies.
There is not a complete guarantee that you have ancestors from any specific area because the private DNA tests cannot relay this information as an exact measurement.
Even when a test is used to determine your predisposition to certain genetic diseases like Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s, the result does not guarantee you will develop that illness, but simply implies you have an increased likelihood of contracting the disease.
Additionally, that increased likelihood could only be a single digit percentage and is affected by a multitude of other factors.
In the end, it can be exciting to learn more about your genetic lineage, but the results of an at home DNA test should be taken with a grain of salt.
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