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The science behind DNA testing has advanced at unbelievable rates over the last two decades. When DNA first started to be used commercially, it was typically to determine paternity, testing just a handful of specific DNA markers between the alleged father and child. Now, DNA tests are capable of measuring thousands upon thousands upon thousands of markers, matching you to extremely distant relatives based on just a few shared centimorgans of DNA.
The science is incredible.
Not only can we have a digital copy of our autosomal DNA on our home computer, but it’s affordable too. Companies like 23andme and AncestryDNA have been on the forefront of the DNA revolution, but as with anything, there are critics and skeptics out there. Lately, there’s been a lot of videos circulating about why you shouldn’t do a DNA test. Here’s why those paranoias are unfounded.
One of the biggest issues I seem to encounter when people are concerned about DNA testing is privacy. People are concerned about “just handing over” their DNA. Some are even worse and think it’s a conspiracy for the government to obtain your DNA. I can’t help but laugh about this one.
Our DNA isn’t exactly private. Everything we touch, we leave traces of DNA. If the government actually wanted my DNA, don’t you think they would have it? They’d send some super smooth CIA agent to follow me to my home, pick up my dirty napkins, used coffee cups, dig through my trash, steal my chapstick out of the center console of my car. If someone wants my DNA bad enough, it wouldn’t be hard to obtain. The same goes for anyone else.
Trust me, if the government wanted your DNA, they’d have it.
I don’t know where this idea came from, but so many people are concerned that if they take a DNA test and it reveals anything concerning about their health, that they may lose their health insurance. No, just no. There’s so many things wrong with this idea.
For starters, just because you carry a gene does not mean the gene will be expressed. For example, my father and paternal grandmother both carry genes associated with an autoimmune disease. They did not have them, yet I did, carrying the same gene.
Another example; I carry several genes associated prostate cancer. I’m going to go out on a limb and take a wild guess that I’m not at risk for prostate cancer any time soon.
You also have to take into consideration that if this health data was so valuable that an insurance company would deny coverage due to it, wouldn’t they require DNA testing before offering an individual coverage? Really, think about it. If they wanted this data so bad, wouldn’t they require a DNA test as part of the application process? Surely that would allow them to make a better decision as to whether or not you’re a liability?
3. Legal Concerns
Another fear I encounter when talking about DNA tests is the possible legal concerns that could arise from having DNA on file. For starters, if you’re not out raping and murdering people, you shouldn’t be too worried about someone finding your DNA at a crime scene. That aside, tests submitted through AncestryDNA and 23andme are not legally admissible in court because there is no chain of custody.
I have had 8 legal paternity tests done. At each one, I presented multiple forms of identification, I was fingerprinted, photographed, and then swabbed. I wasn’t allowed to touch the swabs nor the bag. I had to sit still and awkwardly stare at the wall while a gloved stranger rubbed a swab on my cheeks just a bit too roughly. Then I watched them seal my sample in a bag with tamper evident tape.
With a genetic genealogy based test like AncestryDNA or 23andme, there is no chain of custody. I could swab my next door neighbor and register the kit under my own name and no one would ever know. If you’re that concerned, register your kit with a fake name and birthdate. Easy peasy.
4. Identity Theft
Believe it or not, people often ask me about identity theft when it comes to DNA testing. I’m not sure what credit card companies and loan companies these people are using, but I have never had to submit my DNA in order to take out credit. And if someone asks you to provide a DNA sample for a credit card or a mortgage, I’m willing to bet you should stay far, far away from that lender. Last I checked, I can’t steal your gum from the trash and turn in a credit card application with it.
This one just baffles me. People are concerned about their DNA being used for research, or being sold to other companies (again, for research). Why is there such an uproar over research? Are you concerned your DNA could help researchers find a way to improve someone’s quality of life? Are you concerned your DNA could lead to a cure for debilitating diseases and illnesses? Are you worried your DNA could assist researchers in improving and advancing modern healthcare?
I don’t get it.
While it’s good to be cautious and thoroughly evaluate the benefits and risks of a particular good or service, most common fears associated with DNA testing are honestly, quite silly. These risks might sound legitimate when you first hear them, but when you really think about it, there isn’t much to fear. While DNA tests may reveal upsetting or alarming information at times (and you should prepare yourself for this prior to spitting), these tests are an amazing resource, offering truth, transparency and empowerment of those who choose to utilize. DNA testing is opening doors that twenty years ago, we were unaware even existed. DNA tests are changing the world as we know it, and this technology is only in it’s infancy.