5 things to consider when using at-home genetic testing kits

At-home genetic testing is becoming a popular trend. The cost of these tests is decreasing, which means more people can participate in learning about their DNA — and who isn’t curious about their genes and ancestry?

These testing kits now offer to provide information about your risk of having a mutation in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene, which may increase your risk of developing certain cancers, such as breast cancer.

While this testing can provide some interesting insight into your genetics, there are some things that you should consider before using these at-home kits:

  • The latest testing looks at three specific mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes that are commonly found in the Ashkenazi Jewish population. It’s important to remember that there are thousands of other mutations in these genes that are not being tested for in these at-home kits.
  • There are other genes associated with hereditary cancer syndromes besides BRCA1 and BRCA2. While these two are the most common causes of hereditary breast cancer, there are other genes that are associated with an increased risk for breast cancer, as well as other cancers. So, you should be aware that any results you receive will not be all-encompassing of your cancer risks.
  • If you read the fine print, you’ll notice the companies state that the information from these tests is not to be used to make medical decisions. Any abnormal testing result would need to be confirmed through a clinical genetic testing laboratory, which would be ordered by a genetic counselor or doctor.
  • Your genetic information holds the key to your health, so make sure your data is being kept safe and private. Be cautious in choosing where you purchase your testing kit.
  • Finding out you have a mutation in a gene that increases your chances of developing cancer can cause anxiety. While knowing this information can help doctors guide your cancer screenings, there are definite emotional, physical and mental implications for a positive test result. Make sure you are well-educated on the implications of any result you might get before you order the testing.

Most people do not have a hereditary cancer syndrome, but if you have multiple individuals in your family with cancer, family members diagnosed younger than age 50 or multiple cancers in a single individual, consider speaking with a genetic counselor to discuss genetic testing options.

Learn more about genetic testing and counseling at Baylor Scott & White Health.

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This content has been written or reviewed by a member of the Baylor Scott & White Health medical staff.

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5 things to consider when using at-home genetic testing kits