DNA kits are expected to be one of the hottest gifts this Christmas season. Many people will go one step further and send the raw data from their kit results to a third party lab that offers to reveal even more about your genetic risks for certain diseases.
For a few extra bucks, one Dallas man sent off his data and the results he got back, weren't only scary, they were wrong.
When radiologist resident Dr. Joshua Clayton got his test results back from a popular DNA testing kit, he said didn't think much of them because they were negative and everything seemed fine.
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Then, he said, he bought one for his father and the two decided to send their raw results to a third party company that crosschecked for genetic varations linked to diseases.
"For five bucks, I thought it was interesting," Clayton said.
The third party lab would run his raw data through a database of research to see if he had a gene variant linked to disease and the result came back postiive.
It told him he had a mutation linked to Lynch Syndome, a genetic disorder that leads to potentially deadly cancers at an early age.
"It was scary to think I might have something I have to act on for the rest of my life. It prompts all these questions, like, 'Do I have a low-level cancer now that I don't know about?'"
In search of a Lynch Syndrome expert, he went to Dr. Theo Ross, director of the cancer genetics program at UT Southwestern.
"Normally, when we get one of these tests, we take them and put them in the shredder and do a real test because we have yet to do a clinical test. That's what we do," Ross said.
The clinical test found Clayton did not have the potentinally cancer-causing gene mutation that would have changed his life.
"I was very relieved. Obviously, it means I don't have to go through all those screenings," Clayton said.
"I think awareness of genetics is great," said Ross, who says all of the consumer DNA testing kit companies have done a good job at bringing attention to genetics.
However, she added, "It's not a health test. It's not going to tell you your predispositions to diseases."
Dr. Ross warned that consumers don't realize their results from popular DNA kits aren't conclusive.
She said you should take them with, "more than a grain of salt, a bag of salt."
She also warned the DNA tests might keep people who should see a doctor from taking that first step.
"Ninety-eight percent of poeple who don't have cancer, but have one of these mutations that should be followed, don't know that," she said. "There are so many people out there that need to have a genetic analysis and don't know that."
A comprehensive DNA test from a certified lab, like the one Ross uses, costs $250.
Ross suggested that if you're truly curious abour your genetic risk for disease, you should see a genetic counselor.
Go to www.nsgc.org and click on "find a genetic counselor" to find one in your area.