LAS VEGAS (KSNV) — At-home genetic testing kits are one of the hottest holiday gifts: advertised as a way for customers to discover their ancestry and vulnerability for possible disease.
As of 2019, MIT estimated more than 26 million people have taken one.
But certified genetic counselor Dena Goldberg urges customers to pause and consider a few factors before spitting in the tube.
"Think about where you are in life, and how anxious you are, and how anxious you would be if you would find something that is or could be significant," Goldberg said.
While many enjoy learning about their family history, she warns the results could contain explosive information forever damaging relationships.
"Many many people doing these tests are finding out family secrets that they didn't know before, and that can be life-changing," she said. "These things can really tear apart families sometimes, some of this information, and it can really change someone's identity of who they are."
As for using these tests to screen for diseases, she points out they aren't the same as the ones performed in a medical setting.
"The health testing that is offered from these at-home genetic testing companies is not nearly as comprehensive as a true medical test and will miss a lot of people at risk for disease," she said.
Goldberg suggests people looking for specific information should see a medical professional instead.
Companies do warn customers about these risks in their fine print, but Goldberg doesn't think people are getting the message.
Instead, she suggests customers should be guided by two questions:
"Why am I doing this," she said, and how will this affect me and my family?"