The Real Reason To Avoid DNA Tests

Photo by Daniele Levis Pelusi on Unsplash

There is a legitimate reason to not take these tests, but this Gizmodo article is not it.

Gizmodo’s argument revolves around “Golden State Killer” fears. Which presumes you or your relatives are naive enough to share genetic data on an open-source-third-party-website like GED Match.

The legitimate reason is we really don’t know anything actionable at this point. Largely because genomics is way, way, in its infancy. So you may have a gene that’s associated with a risk of Alzheimer’s, but there may be some yet unknown gene that counteracts it. Or the original studies on that gene may prove wrong.

Which is why the FDA only allows 23 & Me to report health info on a minimal set of SNPs. And why 23 & Me repeatedly warns customers to not freak-the-hell-out at anything found.

But if a relative imports their raw data into Promethease — which tells you everything, including the most speculative bleeding edge stuff, with minimal guidance — they may needlessly terrify themselves. But this is presuming your relatives are savvy enough to know about Promethease. And if they are, hopefully they are knowledgeable enough to know to not to freak-the-hell-out.

(Spoiler alert: You will find genes that are associated with a higher risk of Alzheimer’s, diabetes, cancer, etc. But will also find genes that say the opposite. This is true for almost everyone.)

So why do these tests? Because you’re a nerd. For the “lulz”. It’s like why you’d buy a PC in the 1970s: To stay on the bleeding edge. Or you’re doing due diligence on Illumina.

The main mass appeal to these tests is the ancestry component. Which is also speculative (but has gotten A LOT better). But there is a positive there: Most of us aren’t purebreds. So hey, maybe these tests will make us all a little less racist. Maybe.

(Full disclosure: I own stock in Illumina. Virtually all these tests use Illumina chips.)