Types of DTC Testing
The market for DTC genetic testing is broad. Some companies provide information about your ancestry, tracking your lineage back to its origin. Other companies provide information about paternity. Still there are more companies whose main focus is to provide health and disease information to the consumer.
Genetic testing can be used to investigate an individual’s deep ancestry. All humans evolved in Africa, yet today we populate nearly every corner of the globe. Shared DNA sequences help researchers understand the migratory patterns of early ancestors as they left Africa and eventually made it to different areas of the world. The National Genographic Project offers ancestry services as part of an ongoing research project using DNA from indigenous communities to understand how human evolution and our early migrations shaped the human population today. The ethical ramifications of this information are relatively benign in that it provides people with some novel information about their past, but does not purport health or medical information.
Paternity tests have been used in both the medical and legal fields to establish definitive parental rights and health information. This information can now be obtained in your home with DTC genetic tests. It may be the case that this alleviates stress and conflict within relationships or clearly defines family dynamics, but it may also have a negative impact if unexpected results are revealed.
Many of the DTC genetic testing companies market their tests as disease risk assessments. They provide myriad results from your genetic information for the purpose of making future plans regarding your health, or the health of your offspring. The information that is revealed ranges from the relatively insignificant, such as eye or hair color, to panic inducing information regarding potential risk of cancer, obesity, Alzheimer’s disease, and heart attacks. For some diseases, like cystic fibrosis or Huntington’s disease, the genetic tests yield very accurate results. The information provided will describe with near certainty if the person will be affected in the future, or if they are a carrier and may pass the disease gene to their offspring. However, for many conditions, such as kidney disease, asthma, and obesity, there is no single gene that definitely indicates disease predisposition. The results of the genetic tests for these diseases are only estimates based on gene association studies.