DNA Testing Kits Can Show You Multiple Things About Yourself
Modern technologies have made it easier than ever before for humanity to understand the way the body works. DNA tests look at the building blocks or instructions that created the pattern of an individual's physical existence, which is also known as their genetic blueprint or makeup. This code does more than explain in general, for example, why someone has specific eye, hair and skin color. It carries a history of the person's ancestry and their degree of relation to specific ethnic groups from around the world. Once those ethnic groups are known after DNA testing, the person can learn more about their ancestors' migration patterns, cultures and histories going back generations. They can use genealogy databases to find previously unknown biological relatives, connect with living relatives and share knowledge about their families. DNA testing can reveal problems with the code that might be causing current health problems or indicate a predisposition for certain future ones like inflammation, chronic diseases, benign tumors and cancer. It can help a person learn what foods, skincare products and lifestyle changes are best to keep their body in top form. It can tell them which medications won't work well. It can even reveal undiagnosed allergies and sensitivities.
How Does It Work?: DNA Testing
You either acquire a DNA test kit on your own or visit your healthcare provider, a specialist or a laboratory. You or a healthcare worker take a sample for testing, such as saliva, skin from a cheek swab, blood or stool, and secure it in a clean container for shipment to a DNA testing company's lab or a third-party one. Lab technicians look at the DNA for changes or markers specific to the request and then generate a report that covers the test results. You receive this report by mail or go through genetic counseling with your doctor or specialist during an office visit. You use the results to help you better understand your family or medical history or make changes in your life as needed.
The Checklist: What You Need to Have Your DNA Tested
DNA testing merely requires that a laboratory receive a sample of your cells by some method. As a result, you don't need much to request testing and receive a report:
- Transportation - Unless you order a DNA test kit for shipment to your home, you need transportation to review the wide selection of kits located at pharmacies and some big box department stores. Of course, you also need transportation if you plan to have one or more samples taken at a doctor's office or laboratory.
- DNA Test Kit - Whether you buy a kit or receive one from your doctor, you can find everything you need in the box. Typically, a kit contains a guide about DNA testing, instructions on how to perform the test, a sample collector, secure container and a shipping pouch or label. If performing the test at a provider's office or lab, you don't need to worry about the kit.
- Clean Sample Location - You don't need to make dietary changes or perform a colon cleanse before a DNA test. If you decide to take a saliva or skin sample, most companies recommend that you brush your teeth and wait 30 minutes. During that time, you shouldn't chew gum, use tobacco products, drink beverages or eat. Stool samples must not be contaminated by blood or urine.
Questions and Answers
DNA testing can sometimes seem mysterious for those who have never experienced the process. The following information covers the most common questions that people have about DNA tests and kits:
Q: How do I secure my sample?
A: It depends on the method of testing and submission. Legitimate DNA testing companies provide customers with secure containers to ship samples. If you're worried about shipping a stool sample, for example, you can secure the sample container inside of a leak-resistant, zip-style, plastic freezer bag.
Q: Do I have to pay for DNA testing if my doctor orders it?
A: Most insurance companies won't pay for DNA tests unless those tests are considered medically necessary. Some insurers do cover sample collection when it's performed at a doctor's office, hospital or approved lab. If your insurer won't cover the tests even though your doctor has deemed them necessary, you might qualify for financial assistance. Your provider should ask the testing company about financial hardship programs.
Q: Do I pay shipping and handling?
A: Top DNA testing companies usually provide a shipping envelope or box and a prepaid self-adhesive label. You typically only pay for the DNA sample collection kit and the test results. If you complete a kit that has been given to you by your doctor, you usually don't need to pay anything upfront. If you receive genetic counseling, you might need to pay afterward a co-pay or total cost for the office visit.
Q: How long does it take to receive my DNA results?
A: It depends on the company. A paternity test, for example, might only take a few business days. Extensive genetic testing, as seen with tests related to ancestry and medical conditions, can take several weeks. The number of samples that a laboratory receives from all patients and healthcare systems can slow down the testing process. The number of tests required per sample report can also lengthen the time frame. Given that each DNA-testing company differs, always check with the company.
Q: Will the company share my results with third parties?
A: It depends on the company. Many companies state that they don't share individual results with other companies. That said, ancestry-related commercial companies make genealogy databases developed using DNA profiles available to not only individual knowledge seekers for consumer usage, but also other companies. Laboratories that handle medical-related testing usually store aggregate data for research purposes and share it with medical and academic researchers. Members of law enforcement also often use these databases. You should always check a company's Terms and Conditions for information about this topic before submitting your sample. Never go with a company that keeps your sample frozen in storage after testing for future commercial use. It's important to note that home paternity DNA test results are usually not admissible for court proceedings. If you would like to share paternity results, you must have the test performed via an court-approved method.
Q: Who owns the patent on my DNA?
A: No one. As of 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that companies can't patent natural DNA.