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Did You Get a DNA Test As a Gift? Read This Before You Mail That Sample

Toys, chocolate, flowers, and…DNA tests?

Yes, DNA tests have become surprisingly popular holiday gifts. The way someone would gift you a subscription to a magazine or newspaper, now you can gift someone a chance to find out about their ancestry and health.

If you happened to be on the receiving end of a 23andMe or Ancestry gift, don’t be in a rush to mail back your spit.

DNA Test Gift

There are a few things you need to know first.

1. There’s a Potential Risk to Your Privacy (and Your Family’s Too)

Getting a doctor-ordered DNA test is very different from ordering a test online. HIPAA tightly protects your doctor’s test.

Your online test is as private as the company’s fine print wishes it to be.

With many recent reports about DNA testing companies sharing data with third parties and law enforcement, it’s important to think carefully about your privacy before you take the test.

Read the company’s privacy policy, looking specifically for information about what kind of data they collect, what they do with it, and who they share it with.

Check if there are consents you need to give or withdraw, regarding the use of your data.

The privacy risk is not just to you but your family as well. As DNA databases have grown, it has become possible to track down family members, even those who have never taken a DNA test.

Someone could find your family members through your DNA test results.

2. It’s not 100% Accurate

A DNA test will return a lot of information. If it was a genealogical test such as the AncestryDNA test, you’ll discover your ancestry breakdown, your lineage and find unknown family members.

If it is a health test, the report will tell you what genetic diseases you are at risk of.

But none of this information is guaranteed to be 100% accurate.

Ancestry breakdowns are usually estimated. Some of the family members you discover may not be related to you at all.

When it comes to health testing, you need to be even more careful. Simply because the report says you carry a gene that increases the risk of breast cancer does not mean you’ll get breast cancer.

And if you don’t have that gene, it doesn’t mean you’ll not get breast cancer.

Before you mail that sample, check your expectations. When you get your results, do not make any life-changing decisions based on it without doing further research or talking to an expert (especially for the health results).

3. It Can Upend Your Life…and Your Family

Sometimes, DNA testing can be too good. People have discovered things they wished to have left hidden.

People have discovered they were adopted, that their parent is not their biological parent or that they have a child they did not know about.

Others have discovered they have a sibling or half-sibling.

These discoveries are sometimes exciting and welcome. Other times, they can break apart families.

It’s not just about family and genealogy. A DNA health test can upend your life, as well.

Although all the disclaimer 23andMe includes in their report, being told you have a gene for certain cancer or dementia is bound to shake you.

So before you mail that sample, be sure that you are ready to handle whatever might come up in the results.

The Upside

Medical theft

It’s not all caution and fear. Getting a DNA test as a gift can be an opportunity to find out more about yourself and your family.

You can learn about your paternal or maternal lineage, discover cousins you’ve never met, and find out interesting information about your health and physical traits.

The most important thing is to go in with your eyes open. Know what to expect, realize the limits of the test, and guard your privacy.


About the Author Charles M.

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