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DNA Home Testing — Is It Worth It?

– Contributed content –

DNA illustration

(National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, NIH)

4 Oct. 2018. It is incredibly popular now, but while so many of us are able to send away for one of those home testing kits to find out our ancestry, not to mention if we have a predilection towards certain diseases, are these kits valid at all?

Why do we need to do these?

Famously, Angelina Jolie underwent a double mastectomy and surgery to remove her ovaries after taking one of these tests, a move which has prompted thousands of women to check if they are prone to breast cancer or ovarian cysts. And while these tests are easy to use, and are relatively cheap, why do we need to do these? Is it something that we really need to know? A lot of people are curious to find out their heritage, which can explain a lot of why they are prone to certain diseases or ailments, which can prove to be handy, but not necessarily necessary.

Do they provide the answers?

After taking one of these tests, you may find that there isn’t anything to write home about. You can certainly have some concerns about your health, especially in relation to your chance of developing certain illnesses or cancers, but the vast majority of us can undertake blood tests to wipe out any doubts in our mind. While there are many laboratories undertaking relevant research, via DNA extraction, and looking for the signs of cognitive decline, like Alzheimer’s or dementia, we’re taking the law into our own hands when we buy these tests and do them at home.

And with a lot of focus on biohacking, and the self-assessment approach to being healthy, a lot of the results can be dismissed as quackery. While there are numerous scientists out there using their knowledge for good, and so we can all live healthier lives. When we purchase one of these tests online and send them back for results, is this going to provide the outcome we expect?

Will we wish we never did it in the first place?

Amazingly, a lot of people that have taken these tests have entered into middle age and found the results not just unappealing, but extremely worrying. Surely it’s better for us to avoid bad news if we can, and enjoy our lives without the knowledge that we could succumb to an illness just after middle age? If you do this test when you’re in your 20s and 30s, this could very well mean a few decades of worrying. But not only this, the tests that are provided may not deliver reliable results. And in this case, maybe the old-fashioned idea of living a healthy lifestyle rather than throwing tech at the problem is more beneficial for us?

There has certainly been an influx in these home testing kits, and it’s a global market that is increasing year after year. But while the validity of these tests needs to be taken into account, we should ask ourselves if we will get the results we are after. In which case, surely it’s better to not know, and take each day as it comes, rather than finding out that we could potentially die at a young age, and worry until we draw our last breath?

Editor’s note: The opinions in this post are the contributor’s and not those of Science & Enterprise.

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