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Consumer Genetic Testing

- June 14, 2019
Do the popular DNA tests offer useful information about health risks and heritage?
Featured Report

Direct-to-consumer genetic testing, introduced in 2000, has seen explosive growth in recent years. In 2018, as many people purchased the testing kits as in all previous years combined. Companies such as Ancestry, FamilyTreeDNA and 23andMe provide genealogy information to consumers, and 23andMe also analyzes users' genetic risk for 12 diseases and health conditions. But critics say reports produced by the testing companies can be inaccurate, misleading and vulnerable to hacking. Others complain that government oversight is too weak to prevent genetic information from being used to discriminate against consumers or violate the privacy of relatives of people who submit their DNA for testing. Privacy concerns have grown especially acute after law enforcement officials began using some testing companies, such as GEDmatch and FamilyTreeDNA, to try to solve crimes. Testing companies defend the accuracy of their work and their privacy and security policies. They and their supporters, including some geneticists, say consumers have a right to their genetic information and that such data, stripped of identifying information, can help researchers find treatments for diseases.

FamilyTreeDNA and the FBI

State Legislation

New Diabetes Risk Score

1940s–1970sScientists unravel the mysteries of DNA.
1980s–1990sThe Human Genome Project to sequence the human genome gets underway.
2000–PresentScientists map the entire human genome; private companies market direct-to-consumer genetic tests for ancestry and health risks.

Should women purchase direct-to-consumer genetic tests for breast cancer risk?


Joel Eissenberg
Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Saint Louis University.


Fuki Hisama
Professor of Medical Genetics and Program Director of the Medical Genetics Residency Program, University of Washington.


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