How to choose the best DNA tests to understand your health risks

Credit: William Thomas Cain/GettyImages
Credit: William Thomas Cain/GettyImages

The at-home genetic testing market for health conditions is soaring, and the kits are more affordable than ever. The process is as simple as making a few clicks on a website, entering your credit card number, mailing your tube full of spit, and watching for the results email.

That’s the easy part. Using at-home genetic testing for health risk brings a different type of journey than discovering ancestry. But prepare yourself to collect answers you may not be ready to hear.

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First, ask yourself why you’re testing — whether you’re curious about your health risks or are worried about your family history.

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Next, spend time on websites that offer direct-to-consumer cancer genetic testing. Decide whether you want answers about inherited risk for cancer only, or whether you’d like to hear about heart disease, Alzheimer’s, or how your body metabolizes medications.

If you decide to buy a kit, pay attention to how many risk genes each company includes. “Of all of the genes associated with risk for cancer, some companies might test for one or two, or just test for a handful of mutations in those one or two genes, so that would not be a comprehensive test,” says Gillian Hooker, president of the National Society of Genetic Counselors.

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