Unless you’ve been living off the grid for the last few years, you’ve most likely seen advertising for ancestral DNA tests like AncestryDNA or 23andMe and you probably know someone who’s used one of these tests. These tests have proven to be quite useful in finding long-lost family members and have even assisted in catching dangerous criminals like the Golden State Killer and the Fort Wayne Monster after their crimes went unsolved for years. But are these tests as useful when it comes to your health information? Maybe–or maybe not.
In 2013, the Food and Drug Administration began prohibiting DNA testing companies like 23andMe from presenting health information based on DNA results to customers though they were initially able to do so. This was because, at the time, DNA companies could not guarantee accurate results and were dealing with issues like false positive results for pretty serious conditions such as cancer.
Actress Angelina Jolie famously underwent a total mastectomy in 2013 after learning she had a genetic marker for breast cancer through genetic testing, which sparked a movement of women undergoing their own battery of tests to learn about their health risks. However, Jolie likely spent thousands on genetic testing with top expert geneticists and underwent genetic counseling to understand the results of her tests.
Most women don’t have the kind of money Jolie rakes in at their disposal to spend on expensive tests so they opt for the much more affordable ancestral DNA tests from companies like 23andMe that also offer testing for health information. But are these test results accurate enough to justify paying for expensive screenings or extreme measures like surgery?
Since the FDA ban in 2013, 23andMe and other companies have slowly won back their rights to distribute health information based on their DNA results by demonstrating their reports are scientifically proven and valid. This means the results of your tests are probably reliable but we and other medical experts recommend professional consultation before making extreme health decisions.
The best place to start learning how your results could affect your health is at your medical provider’s office. Bring your results to your next checkup and discuss your concerns with your medical provider. They can help you better understand your results and refer you to a genetic counselor who can help you decide the best course of action for preventing major health concerns.
To request an appointment to discuss your DNA test results with one of our trusted medical providers, call 662-348-3342.