What Gene Tests like 23andMe Miss When it Comes To Your Health
If you’ve never heard of services like 23andMe, it’s easy to understand right off the bat why they’re so appealing. Genetic testing services like these began as a fun, harmless way for customers to trace their ancestry; they rose in popularity due to the convenience of the testing (all you have to do is provide a saliva sample, send it to a predetermined address, and wait to receive your results), in addition to the interesting ancestry results they provided (you might be surprised to find that your Irish background is actually Irish, German, and Baltic). Over time, however, the scope of these genetic services has gone far beyond fun and innocuous ancestry results.
DIY Genetic Health Profiles
23andMe, along with its competitors, have evolved to provide far more than ancestry results. Nowadays, their testing packages also include “comprehensive” screening which, according to their website, enables customers to “get a more complete picture of your health with insights from your genetic data.”
At face value, this might sound fantastic; after all, with rising costs of primary care and insurance premiums, paying $200 for comprehensive genetic testing sounds like a steal, right?
Unfortunately, the reality isn’t that simple, and it’s important to consider both the scientific reality and security concerns that come with commodified, on-demand genetic testing like this.
The Privacy Issue
When you provide your genetic information to a commercial business like 23andMe, those privacy regulations don’t apply in the same way that they would at a doctor’s office or hospital.
In fact, 23andMe is currently being investigated by the Federal Trade Commission for their policies regarding sharing genetic data with third parties. If you wish to participate in a program through 23andMe or another one of its competitors, proceed with caution and understanding that your genetic information isn’t protected by the same rules as it would be in a medical setting.
A physician can not only conduct comprehensive health screenings and lab tests, but interpret those test results and make diagnoses accordingly. 23andMe can do none of those things. If you do receive a 23andMe test result that claims you have X or Y predisposition to a specific medical condition, you’ll still have to visit a physician, receive medically-approved testing, and undergo all of the standard medical processes in order to obtain a diagnosis or treatment. 23andMe does not offer medically useful information, medical advice, diagnoses, or anything else that can be materially helpful for your treatment or quality of life.
If you do have interest in utilizing a service like 23andMe, do so understanding that it cannot replace medical testing or medical advice.
Though services like 23andMe have taken the world by storm, they come with a series of health and security concerns that should not be taken lightly by those interested in using them. If you have curiosities or concerns about your genetic predispositions, symptoms, or any other health questions, the best thing you can do is undergo specialized lab testing with a physician. To learn more about what you can expect from lab testing, click here.
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