Why This Fun Christmas Gift Might Be Harmful to Your Family's Health

Timothy Boyer Ph.D.'s picture
Ancestry Christmas Gift

This Christmas season there is a heavy marketing campaign for a seemingly fun Christmas gift that might be harmful to you and your family’s health. Here is what you need to know to avoid being swayed by its slick marketing hype.

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We’ve all seen the commercial - a young, attractive female with obvious skin, hair and facial features that makes racial identity difficult to pinpoint visually, is now easily discernable through a simple DNA test that purports to reveal her genetic ancestry. Armed with the test results, the young woman is shown happy and reborn with this new knowledge as she travels to exotic lands to discover her heritage and who she really is.

However, according to a recent NBC News report, your DNA is the most valuable thing you own and by having your DNA tested, the results could wind up in the wrong hands and leave you and your family vulnerable.

4 Vulnerabilities of an Ancestry Test

1. You sign a complex legal waiver that is more about protecting the company than it is about protecting you. While the company may profess on their website they will not sell your DNA data to anyone, it could easily happen and you would never know.

2. If credit card companies and hospitals can lose client data to hackers, why would a DNA testing company be any less vulnerable to theft of your genetic data?

3. Your DNA data is wanted by others such as scientists involved in research programs for identifying the genes linked to disease; health insurance providers who take into consideration risk factors and potential genetic predispositions to disease; and data miners who gather every piece of intel they can about a specified individual.

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4. Laws change and so do ownerships of businesses. If an ancestry service changes hands, so do the rights to your DNA. And if insurance policy legalities involving DNA change, your DNA data could be used against you and family members looking for coverage in the future.

Is There Any Difference Between an Ancestry Test and a Disease Test?

The short answer is “yes and no.” Yes, if the DNA is analyzed for specific ancestry markers that researchers have found that tend to be associated with specific geographic and racial populations. No, in the sense that the DNA could be analyzed for specific disease markers that researchers have found that tend to be associated with specific geographic and racial populations. In other words, some markers could overlap between the two tests revealing more than just ancestry or genetic predisposition to specific diseases and medical conditions. An enterprising company may sell you your ancestry results, but could just as easily test for genes linked to medical conditions such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency (affects the lungs and liver), and Hereditary thrombophilia (affects blood clotting) as a follow-up sale offer to the consumer.

Here’s an NBC News Video about the FDA Approving At-Home DNA Tests for 10 Diseases

Final Caution: How an Ancestry Test Could Make Your Christmas Less Than Merry

Let’s suppose an entire family is gifted with ancestry testing. What happens if those results are compared only to discover that “somehow” one child’s results differ from its siblings and one of the parents? Don’t think that it cannot and will never happen. In fact, that ancestry gift could be a ruse to uncover potential infidelity and paternity. Whether or not such a comparison between siblings could be accurate enough to hint at the possibility, only a true paternity test with its own set of special analyzed markers could tell for sure. The point here is that regardless of what type of DNA testing is done - ancestral, medical or paternity - it should be deciphered only by an expert and with some before and after genetic counseling to prevent unnecessary headache and heartache.

Reference: NBC News “What you’re giving away with those home DNA tests” Nov. 30, 2017

Have you ever done ancestry dna test? Let us know how meaningful do you want to make this Christmas with it's true spiritual meaning. You can make your voice heard in the comments section below. If you liked this article and think it may help your friends, consider sharing or tweeting it to your followers.

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