The personal genetic-testing kits business is booming. You’re now able to find out about your ancestry and health risks for as little as $100. Kits from companies such as 23andMe, AncestryDNA, and CRI genetics have become quite popular. More than 12 million people in the US alone have bought these self-testing kits over the last couple of years, and this number is growing. But is DNA testing risk free? Nope! You could actually be risking your privacy, financial well-being, and physical health by taking one of these tests. Here are some of the reasons not to do a DNA test.
- Negative Health Results
You may be perfectly health, or at least think you are, but a DNA test can turn your life upside down if you discover that you carry a genetic disorder. Dealing with the results can often be a challenge. You cannot simply ignore the grim realities of negative DNA results. This is why it is important to understand what the ramifications of taking a DNA test are before diving in.
- Family Issues
Family relationships are often complicated. People discovering that their parents are not their biological parents after a DNA test can be devastating. Or even a father discovering that a child is not their biological child. Sometime, ignorance is bliss.
- Inaccurate Results
While DNA tests are by far the best way to determine relations and ancestry, they can be unreliable when it comes to determining whether a test subject suffers from a dangerous genetic mutation. According to a study featured in the Genetics Magazine, up to 40% of variants reported in raw data turned out to be false positives. This implies that DNA testing companies often mistook harmless genetic mutations for dangerous ones. A false positive during a DNA test could cause you untold grief and turmoil. You may have to go through expensive and totally unnecessary tests trying to prevent or treat a non-existent life-threatening condition. While you might be tempted to find out your risk of developing a hereditary disease, it is often best to work with a qualified doctor instead of going with a random off-the-shelf DNA test kit. Another option is to deal with a reputable genetic testing company like CRI genetics.
This problem is not exclusive to the DNA testing industry. However, the information held by these companies make them prime targets for hackers. In fact, MyHeritage recently reported a hack where 92 million email addresses were compromised. The only redeeming factor was that no genetic information was compromised. However, this risk is clear. You certainly don’t want your DNA data to fall in the wrong hands. This is why you should only work with reputable DNA testing companies that implement best in class data protection. Protecting customer data should be a priority for any provider. You might not want to do a DNA test if there’s a risk your data could fall into the wrong hands.
- Your Data Could Be Sold
There is a chance your data could be sold to the highest bidder since many testing companies have lucrative data sharing deals with pharmaceutical firms. For instance, 23andMe has a deal in place with GlaxoSmithKline worth $300 million dollars while Ancestry has one with Calico Life Sciences. Even more unfortunate is the fact that you don’t have to sign a consent form for your DNA to be sold to a third party.
- Lack of Anonymity
While testing companies do try to anonymize DNA data before sharing it with researchers and other private companies, it is possible to reverse engineer the DNA and trace it back to the source. This can be done by identifying unique mutations and comparing the quirks to public databases. This technique has been successfully used by MIT scientists to identify donors behind 5 anonymously collected samples. All this was done in only a day.
- Your Genetic Data Can be Used Against You
Existing Federal Genetic Privacy laws do not offer any protection when it comes to life, disability, or long-term care. Insurers are allowed to access DNA testing data and charge their customers higher prices or even deny coverage based on the findings. Having your genetic data fall into their hands could easily work against you. If you’re curious about your risk of hereditary disease, you should stick to DNA tests administered by your doctor or go to a reputable DNA testing company. These tests offer greater privacy and are more reliable.
There’s a concern that the proliferation of DNA testing could lead to the slippery slope that is eugenics. Eugenics is the manipulation of the gene pool by preselecting desirable genetic markers to be passed down to a generation. Eugenics has been successfully used in Iceland to eliminate Down Syndrome where unborn babies who test positive for the condition’s markers are aborted. While it does have its upside, it does bring with it a lot of ethical issues. Many people believe gene manipulation goes against nature and their religious beliefs.