With so many companies offering direct-to-consumer genetic testing, it can be challenging to determine which tests will be most informative and helpful to you. When considering testing, think about what you hope to get out of the test. Some direct-to-consumer genetic tests are very specific (such as paternity tests), while other services provide a broad range of health, ancestry, and lifestyle information.
Major types of direct-to-consumer genetic tests include:
- Disease risk and health
The results of these tests estimate your genetic risk of developing several common diseases, such as celiac disease, Parkinson disease, and Alzheimer disease. Some companies also include a person’s carrier status for less common conditions, including cystic fibrosis and sickle cell disease. A carrier is someone who has one copy of a gene mutation that, when present in two copies, causes a genetic disorder. The tests may also look for genetic variations related to other health-related traits, such as weight and metabolism (how a person’s body converts the nutrients from food into energy).
- Ancestry or genealogy
The results of these tests provide clues about where a person's ancestors might have come from, their ethnicity, and genetic connections between families. For more information, see What is genetic ancestry testing?
The results of these tests can indicate whether tested individuals are biologically related to one another. For example, kinship testing can establish whether one person is the biological father of another (paternity testing). The results of direct-to-consumer kinship tests, including paternity tests, are usually not admissible in a court of law.
The results of these tests claim to provide information about lifestyle factors, such as nutrition, fitness, weight loss, skincare, sleep, and even your wine preferences, based on variations in your DNA. Many of the companies that offer this kind of testing also sell services, products, or programs that they customize on the basis of your test results.
Before choosing a direct-to-consumer genetic test, find out what kinds of health, ancestry, or other information will be reported to you. Think about whether there is any information you would rather not know. In some cases, you can decline to find out specific information if you tell the company before it delivers your results.