Genetic testing involves direct examination of the DNA molecule to detemine a person’s ancestry or vulnerabilities to inherited diseases. Genetic testing can provide only limited information about an inherited condition. The test can not determine if a person will show symptoms of a disorder, how severe the symptoms will be, or whether the disorder will progress over time.
The results of genetic tests are not always straightforward, which often makes them challenging to interpret and explain. Many of the risks associated with genetic testing involve the emotional, social, or financial consequences of the test results. The possibility of genetic discrimination in employment or insurance is also a concern. In the United States, the use of genetic information is governed by the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act.
Direct-to-Consumer genetic testing is a type of genetic test that is accessible directly to the consumer without having to go through a health care professional. Benefits of this type of testing are the accessibility of tests to consumers, promotion of proactive healthcare and the privacy of genetic information.
Some advertising for direct-to-consumer genetic testing has been criticized as conveying an exaggerated and inaccurate message about the connection between genetic information and disease risk, utilizing emotions as a selling factor. Consumers can potentially misinterpret genetic information, causing them to be deluded about their personal health.