The truth about DNA testing kits

At-home DNA test kits like 23andMe have been around for years. In fact, according to a recent Consumer Reports survey, about 20% of Americans have taken a genetic test, perhaps with the hope of finding answers about their family origins or potential health problems. But as Consumer Reports explains, although you might take the test for fun, the results can be serious.

Though some of these tests can help determine if you’re likely to develop diseases such as breast cancer or Alzheimer’s, they could also give you a false sense of relief — or fear.

While a positive result from these tests can mean you do have a higher risk of a certain disease, a negative result doesn’t necessarily mean you’re out of the woods, because there could be other variants that can cause that disease not detected by the test.

23andMe says it clearly explains test limitations to users.

While DIY DNA tests can be helpful, some may find the results confusing, misleading or upsetting.

CONSUMER REPORTS: Read This Before You Buy a Genetic Testing Kit

In the CR survey, about 10% of people who used these tests said their reports contained unsettling information, such as the news that someone thought to be a biological relative wasn’t actually related to them at all.

If you think these kits are going to give you a complete picture of your ancestry and your health, you’re going to be disappointed. And there is also the possibility that it could reveal information you may not even want to know about your family.

Bottom line: A DIY DNA test kit might be right for you as long as you understand what your results may or may not signify.

Consumer Reports would also like to remind you that there are very few laws that regulate what a company can do with your genetic data once they receive it, so it could be sold to a third party without you ever knowing about it.

And while Consumer Reports maintains that more laws are needed to protect your genetic results from being sold to a third party without you knowing it, federal law does keep health insurers from using your results when determining your coverage and how much you’ll pay. Florida took it a step further last year by becoming the first state in the country to pass a DNA privacy law that bans life, disability and long-term care Insurance companies from using your genetic results to determine those type policies.