Should I Test My Ancestry DNA?
5 Questions to Ask
At-home DNA testing kits are a growing trend, with the number of participants growing to more than 10 million worldwide. Companies like Ancestry.com and 23andMe require a simple swab of the cheek in exchange for helping consumers “discover their genetic story” and uncover “what makes you you.”
As the sample pool grows, so does the accuracy of ancestry databases. Direct-to-consumer genomics services claim to offer customers a range of information from details about ancestry, to important health information, and even the identity of long-lost relatives.
These services claim that they provide customers with access to important information about themselves in exchange for a simple test that poses little risk. If that is the case, why not do it?
Here are five questions to ask yourself before swabbing your cheek.
1. What am I seeking?
If you are searching for a breakdown of your ethnic heritage or to be linked to relatives on the same search as you are, ancestry matching is a good bet. Consumers should be aware, however, that non-white customers will have a harder time finding matches because matching is based on the size of the sample, and the majority of ancestry DNA customers to date are white Americans of European descent.
You might be seeking health information, searching for clues as to whether you are at risk for any heritable diseases. Knowing in advance that you might live with a certain condition can help you prepare for its contingencies, and awareness that you carry genetic risk for a disease can motivate you to pursue a healthier lifestyle to prevent its manifestation. If you are at a heightened risk for something like alcoholism or breast cancer, you can be intentional about developing moderate drinking habits or diligently scheduling yearly mammograms as a result.
Of course, ruling out a genetic predisposition doesn’t eliminate the possibility of contracting these conditions. How much value does the concrete knowledge of the health risks written into our DNA really add? We can all benefit from making healthy lifestyle changes, and you can likely guess some of your health risks by assessing your family history. You might think the cost of the test isn’t worth the mere satisfaction of your curiosity. On the other hand, if you’re feeling very anxious about what is possibly in store, you might decide it’s worth the price tag to find out.