Are you interested in unlocking the secrets of your DNA? A $100 dollar DNA test can tell you things like whether you’ve inherited a risk factor for a certain cancer, or if Alzheimer’s might be in your future. So, should you get tested? There are some things to consider first. 

To start: There are TWO kinds of genetic tests. Doctor-administered tests and home tests.

  • Doctor tests are mostly ordered because of family history or ethnicity. They can cost $35-hundred bucks, and are usually covered by insurance. The tests are very thorough, and look for all the variations in specific genes, pinpointing those that mean a higher risk of, say, colon or breast cancer or whether you’re likely to respond well to certain drugs or treatments. 

  • But a DNA home kit can cost $100 bucks, and isn’t covered by insurance. You mail in a saliva sample, and log onto a website for the results. Home tests aren’t regulated, so, there’s no telling how accurate the information is. The tests are also much simpler. And search only for the most common genetic variations. So, if you’re concerned about a disease, use a doctor, not a home test.

  • Another fact about DNA tests: They’re hard to interpret on your own.

So if you’re concerned about a specific disease, talk to doctor or genetic counselor first to see if you should screen for it. For example, say you have all the genetic markers for Alzheimer’s. It doesn’t mean you’re going to get it. And since there’s not much you can do to prevent Alzheimer’s, you may be better off not knowing. 

  • Also: DNA tests won’t tell you everything. With some diseases, like diabetes, it’s more accurate to look at family history, lifestyle, and other environmental factors. 

  • Finally: If you take a DNA test, can your records be used against you? It’s against the law for employers and health insurance companies. But the information can affect other coverage, like disability, long-term care, and life insurance.