Healthy Tips

Home Genetic Tests: What to Expect

Can Home Genetics Tests Predict Your Future?

Imagine finding out if you carry the genes for developing late-onset Alzheimer’s disease, just by mailing in some of your spit. Would you do it? At-home genetic testing is becoming more and more popular, especially since being recently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. But, before you send off a saliva sample, there are a few things you should know about these quick and inexpensive tests.

Results Might Not be Relevant for You

The tests are an easy way to assess some aspects of your genetic background, but when it comes to genetics, it’s not necessarily “one-size fits all.” The test may not provide the information you need for your particular circumstances.

“Home tests fulfill people’s desire to get a quick answer, but the reporting process is not geared to providing a comprehensive genetic assessment and home tests aren’t providing individualized risk assessments or health care management recommendations,” says Lee P. Shulman, MD, FACMG, FACOG, Director of the Division of Clinical Genetics, Department of Ob/Gyn, Feinberg School of Medicine of Northwestern University.

You Might Not Understand the Results

Home tests only provide information about how likely you are to develop a certain disease or condition based on your genetic makeup. Based on positive or negative results, self-managing your healthcare or skipping screening tests is risky.

“Home tests do not provide valuable clinical information that help patients change lifestyle factors or potentially reduce risks for certain diseases. In this day and age, genetic testing in the absence of counseling may be dangerous,” explains Dr. Shulman, who sees many patients seeking second opinions about their home genetic tests results.

You Still Need to See a Medical Professional

Whether the results are positive or negative, what you do with them can be a difficult decision. That’s why genetic counselors are available to help you understand your personal family risks. When you receive genetic testing in a hospital-based program, genetic counseling is a critical component that integrates the test results with your family history, environmental factors, lifestyle and other factors to make informed decisions. Also, the FDA advises consumers should discuss any at-home genetic test results with medical professionals. 

The use of genetic information is helping patients like never before. Even though at-home tests are now available that can look for genetic predisposition to certain conditions, they should be used with caution.

Lee P. Shulman, MD
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