(FOX 2) - These days you can learn a lot about your body and where you came from thanks to DNA home test kits. Finding out about your ancestry is one thing, but some DIY kits also test your risk for certain diseases. Is that a good thing?
For those who are concerned about their risk of inheriting disease, from breast cancer to Alzheimer's, thousands of genetic tests are now at our fingertips.
Known as direct-to-consumer genetic tests, these kits can be done in the comfort of your home without a doctor or genetic counselor. But Cleveland Clinic's Dr. Charis Eng says people should be wary of these types of kits.
"Many of them don't test every single gene, although they claim to. Some of them actually just look at certain spots so you can be either falsely alarmed or falsely lulled into complacency and that's never good," she explains.
She says results from at home genetic tests can be easily misinterpreted and shouldn't be taken at face value.
She says it's important to know that some direct-to-consumer genetic tests only report limited information for health conditions, and often don't provide the full picture of disease risk. She says genetic counselors are an important piece of the puzzle when it comes to interpreting genetic testing results. They can explain the pros and cons of testing and talk through potential results and what they mean.
A genetic counselor will also analyze family history to determine if more extensive genetic testing is even necessary.
"If, after a personal family history there's no indication, you don't need genetic testing because you are mostly likely not at genetic risk of disease. So, it's good to have that talk with an expert. Don't do it alone, you are not alone," she says.
Dr. Eng encourages people who believe that a disease runs in their family to seek out a genetic counselor. She says some centers even offer online genetics counseling for people who don't have an expert nearby.