DNA analysis is a form of testing that can help you understand your risks for certain health conditions. What are the pros and cons of genetic testing? With a DNA test, you can make better-informed health decisions, but what are the downsides? Let’s find out.
Before listing the pros and cons of genetic testing, let’s first understand how DNA tests work. DNA is the building block of your genetic material, encoding all of the functions that make you who you are. You receive your genetic code from your parents – half from your mom and half from your dad.
What makes you different are the small changes in your code, called Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms, or SNPs. This means that one piece in your genome is exchanged, leading to a different expression of your genes.
How can you determine what variations you have? By getting your DNA analyzed.
When you get a DNA test, the provider you chose will send a DNA kit directly to your home. Retrieving a sample is usually easy – most only need a cheek swab or some saliva. After the lab receives your sample, they perform DNA analysis to identify SNPs in your genetic code that can relate to certain health traits or conditions.
There are many pros and cons of genetic testing. In this section, we will outline a few aspects you should consider before undergoing a DNA test. However, it is up to you to decide if getting your DNA tested is the right decision for you.
Pros of genetic testing:
- Discover your genetic health predispositions
- Make informed health decisions
- Proactive family planning
Cons of genetic testing:
- Privacy concerns
- Increased stress from potential health risks
There are many benefits of genetic testing. It can be an important part of your medical care and provide you with priceless information about your health. Here we will explore some of the pros of getting your DNA tested.
Many direct-to-consumer genetic testing kits can give you insights into your health risks. Some genetic conditions are caused by mutations in specific genes, such as sickle cell disease. However, many health conditions or traits are based on a number of different genes and gene variants.
For example, there are many variants associated with sleep. In order to provide your genetic risk score for a sleep disorder, companies will analyze genetic mutations in your genome to give your risk assessment regarding this health topic.
But how does it work? Let’s look at the PER2 gene, for example. It codes for period circadian regulator 2 (PER2). PER2 is a core component of your body’s internal clock. More than that, it’s one of the main genes responsible for regulating circadian rhythms.
Variants of the PER2 gene have been linked to sleep conditions and mood disorders. Plus, they can play a role in whether you are an early bird or a night owl. People with a certain PER2 gene variant are more likely to experience imbalanced circadian rhythms than others. By learning more about your genes, it can help you understand your sleep habits, and what you can do to optimize them (more on this below).
There can be thousands or even millions of genetic variants that can affect a particular health issue. The number of variants analyzed by each company can vary a lot. Unfortunately, most DNA providers will only look at a few SNPs to generate genetic risk scores, possibly leaving out many that can affect health. This could lead to your results not being entirely accurate or precise.
Before continuing the list of pros and cons of genetic testing, watch the informative video below to learn more about polygenic risk scores:
Make informed health decisions
Your genes don’t just influence how likely you are to develop a health condition or trait. When you understand what your genetic predispositions are, you can make targeted changes to your lifestyle to counteract the negative effects of your genes.
Let’s go back to the PER2 gene and sleep disorders. It’s true that many things can affect your internal clock, the most common one being exposure to bright lights late at night. But there are things you can do to reset your circadian rhythm.
Avoiding bright lights at night and getting some natural light first thing in the morning are generally good advice for anyone trying to improve their sleep. However, these tips can be particularly effective to you if you carry that PER2 variant that makes it more likely that you experience an imbalanced circadian rhythm.
Knowing how potential health issues might affect you or other family members can help you be proactive about your health and make better-informed decisions. The more you know about your genetic risks, the more effective you are likely to become in trying to counteract them in order to live a healthier life.
As with everything, there may be some negative aspects to DNA testing if you don’t choose the right company to provide your genetic information to. Let’s explore some of the cons of genetic testing here.
When you get a DNA test, you are submitting your genetic information to another party. Unfortunately, there are valid concerns regarding how some companies handle customer data. There have been some reports about companies that go as far as selling your DNA to third parties, such as pharmaceutical companies, essentially monetizing your data.
If that is a concern to you, be sure to research the company thoroughly before taking the test to make sure you understand how your data will be handled. It’s also worth checking if you feel secure with the steps taken to ensure your data is safe.
Another point is to make sure you can retain control over your DNA and sample as much as possible. Having access to your raw data and the ability to delete your information from their database are some of the ways you can do that.
Luckily, not all DNA companies monetize your data. Many reputable companies make a commitment to never sell your data or share it with any third party.
Knowing that you’re genetically predisposed to a health condition or trait can be unsettling to some people. However, keep in mind that this knowledge can be an advantage instead of a burden.
As discussed above, many health problems can have a genetic component. To further illustrate how beneficial genetic testing can be, let’s look at the DAGLB gene and irritable bowel. A variant of this gene correlates with IBS. It likely reduces the levels of cannabinoids, which are important for gut health.
But just because your genes can make it more likely that you experience health issues, it doesn’t mean that there is nothing you can do. If you carry this DAGLB gene variant, for example, exercise can help boost cannabinoids, consequently helping soothe your gut.
Unfortunately, not all genetic testing companies provide guidance on what you can do to address your genetic predisposition. At most, you will receive generalized and superficial recommendations that are not personalized to your genes.
If you want to reduce any stress and anxiety you may experience from knowing your genetic risks, you can look for a DNA company that gives you tailored advice on how to counteract the negative effects of your genes.
We’ve outlined some of the pros and cons of genetic testing. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to make sure you minimize or even eliminate the concerns mentioned above. Choosing the right company to provide your genetic information to is the easiest and most important thing you can do to make sure you have the best experience possible.
SelfDecode is a health-focused DNA testing company that makes a commitment to never sell your data to third parties or share it with anyone without your explicit consent. With SelfDecode, you will own your data and can delete it at any time.
While most DNA companies analyze around 700,000 SNPs, SelfDecode uses cutting-edge AI and machine learning to predict and analyze up to 83 million genetic variants from your typical DNA file with an accuracy of 99.8%, Then, SelfDecode generates the most precise genetic risk score on the market.
But it doesn’t stop there. SelfDecode provides prioritized and personalized diet, lifestyle, and supplement recommendations based on your unique genetic results. You can easily add your recommendations to build your own health regimen directly from your DNA reports.
While most DNA companies only look at one or two SNPs, SelfDecode analyzes tens of thousands of genetic variants per report. By signing up to SelfDecode, you will get access to over 27 DNA wellness reports that cover a variety of health topics, including sleep, gut health, mood, heart health, and many others, with more being added constantly
Personalized & holistic health recommendations
DNA testing, wellness reports, research-based personalized health recommendations, patient and provider options, lab test analyzer
DNA testing, health and ancestry reports, traits
DNA analysis, health reports
DNA testing, traits, health and fitness recommendations, personalized vitamins
Genes & gene variants analyzed
Up to 83 million genetic variants
~100 SNPs per report
Raw data access
Focused on privacy
$97 – $387
$99 – $199+
$29 – $149
DNA testing can be a useful tool for your health, but not without any caveats. There are advantages and disadvantages you should take into account before deciding if you want to get your DNA tested.
Now that you know some of the pros and cons of genetic testing, you may find it easier to decide whether or not this type of approach is right for you. Remember, you can minimize or even cancel out the negative points of getting a DNA test by taking a few preventive steps and choosing the right company.
Some DNA providers will monetize your data and sell it to third parties, but this is not true for all companies. SelfDecode promises to never sell your data or share it with any third party. You will fully own your data and can access or delete it at any time.
Worrying about increased stress and anxiety from knowing your genetic predispositions is a valid concern. One way to counteract this is by choosing a DNA test that will also provide guidance on how to use your genetic results to optimize your health.
SelfDecode analyzes up to 83 million genetic variants and provides personalized and prioritized recommendations to help you optimize your health based on your genes. SelfDecode’s team of over 60 highly skilled PhDs, MDs, NDs, and software engineers work together to make sure you receive the most accurate results that are supported by the latest scientific research.