Do I Want My DNA Tested?
I was sitting in my dermatologist’s office, expecting a lecture about needing to use sunscreen, even though I used it daily. But she surprised me.
“You have rosacea,” she said, and prescribed a cream for the redness.
Rosacea has been linked to genetics, and the experience made me wonder: are there any other diseases lurking inside me that aren’t so obvious? Could my DNA hold the key to knowing my future health?
Consumer tests like 23andMe let anyone find out about various genes: for example, if they carry the BRCA genes for breast cancer, or if they’re at risk for Alzheimer’s disease. But it’s just a risk; many people carry these genes and never develop the conditions.
Still, finding out you’re at risk for a disease can be alarming. A journalist recently wrote about learning that she had the BRCA gene in an email from 23andMe. Receiving distressing news is bad enough from a doctor; having to seek out help on your own is even worse.
I’m also worried about privacy. Not just for me, but for my family and possible future kids. They will share a connection to my DNA that sits in a database.
As far as I know, no one in my family has ever had a DNA test. I’d be the first one to crack open Pandora’s box and look inside.
I know people can unearth shocking secrets about paternity (and even maternity) using DNA tests. I’m positive my parents are my parents. But do I want to possibly unearth a grandparent’s secret?
I’m not worried about the fact that my DNA can be used to solve crimes, but the implications are endless. What if there’s a data breach, and people illegally access my information? Insurers already collect information about us. It’s illegal to discriminate based on genetic information, but it could still happen.
Right now, I’m on the fence. My curiosity about my DNA hasn’t outweighed the potential risks.
I would definitely get a test if I thought I might be a carrier for a severe disease. I would also love to be part of a research study. After all, a few minor hereditary diseases seem to run in my family.
But for the moment, ignorance is bliss. I’ll save the cheek swab, and the long report, for another day.