A reporter examines a 23andMe Inc. DNA genetic testing kit in Oakland, California, U.S., on Friday,… [+] June 8, 2018. The direct-to-consumer genetic-testing industry has grown from some $15 million in sales in 2010 to more than $99 million in 2017, and is projected to reach $310 million by 2022, according to one industry estimate. Photographer: Cayce Clifford/Bloomberg
As a certified genetic counselor, one of the most common questions I’m asked is whether people who are adopted should have DNA testing through a direct-to-consumer (DTC) testing company. I’ve found that the reasons adoptees, or the parents of adoptees, want DNA testing generally fall into three categories:
- To learn more about medical risks;
- To find out ancestry information, since they often have little or none;
- To find biological relatives.
The answer to whether you should seek this type of DNA testing really depends on which of the above questions you are hoping to answer. In short, if you are looking for more information about your medical risks, DTC testing is most likely just the beginning of your journey. It may provide some interesting insights, and a small percentage of people will learn that they carry a genetic variant that places them at high risk of disease. People who learn they have increased risks can, in some cases, potentially be proactive and alter their medical management to reduce that risk. However, if you have a personal history of a medical condition, or reason to believe that you have a family history of a specific genetic condition, DNA testing through one of the popular DTC tests on the market is unlikely to give you meaningful, clinically relevant information about your own health and medical risks. In fact, in many cases, it provides a false sense of reassurance. Instead, the best route in these circumstances would be to speak to a certified genetic counselor to find out which genetic test would be most effective for you to use. Spoiler Alert: it is unlikely to be one of the $99-199 kits you keep seeing on television ads.
Interested in your ancestry? Well, the ancestry DNA kits on the market can likely give you a broad overview of your ancestry, but the exact science used behind the curtains at these laboratories is not well known or validated. In fact, the accuracy of such kits to determine your precise ancestry has been questioned. So, if you are interested in receiving some broad strokes about your ancestry, mixed with a healthy dose of genutainment, this may be the route for you.
Looking for biological relatives? Then DTC DNA testing might be the right plan for you. You can order one of these kits, download your raw DNA, and then upload that information to one of several sites that can match you with other biological relatives in the database. You may be one of the many satisfied customers who have found biological relatives via DNA testing that you likely would never have met otherwise,