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What Does a DNA Test Actually Tell You?

DNA testing kits are both fun and educational. It's important to understand how DNA testing kits work, what they can tell you, and which brands are reliable.
Tomohiro Takano

What Does a DNA Test Actually Tell You?

DNA testing kits are both fun and educational. People use DNA analysis for several purposes, including discovering their heritage and learning more about their health.

Though DNA testing has become more common, many people still don’t completely understand how DNA testing kits work, what can be learned from them, and whether they’re reliable.

What Is DNA Analysis?

Whether you’re interested in an ancestry test or want to learn about your genetic risk for developing cancer, the analysis process is the same.

Every cell of the body contains deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA, which has a very similar structure in humans. In fact, you share 99.9% of your genetic information with every other person on the planet.

Not only that, but humans share DNA with many other living organisms, including cats, dogs, apes, cows, and even bananas. What makes each person different lies in the remaining .01%

Studying that small, unique section of DNA provides the information that testers seek. Reasons people might want DNA analysis include:

  • Disease screening
  • Ancestry information
  • Establishing biological parents or other family connections
  • Establishing inheritance rights
  • Confirming legal paternity and child support

Lab techs can analyze a sample of your DNA taken from blood, hair, nail clippings, or saliva. Most home DNA test kits require only a simple cheek swab to provide a wealth of highly specific, personalized information.

What Does an Ancestry DNA Test Show?

Ancestry DNA tests can show your ethnic background and the migrational path your ancestors followed to get to your place of birth. Analysts look at hundreds of thousands of genetic markers within that unique .01% of DNA to learn which different groups and regions your DNA comes from.

Once you’ve identified your family groups, you can also find DNA matches by adding your information to an existing database. You might fill in missing members of your family tree or discover relatives you never knew existed.

An ancestry test is a fun way to explore your past or add to research you’ve already compiled about your family tree. As enjoyable and important as ancestry research is, a DNA analysis offers much more than a look at the past. They can also help you prepare for the future.

DNA Testing and Your Health

If you’re concerned about your health, it’s important to remember that DNA screening can’t predict whether you’ll get a specific disease. DNA only shows common genetic predispositions, which means the results will confirm if you’re at a higher risk for a certain disease or genetic problem.

Some types of DNA testing require a doctor’s referral, but the best DNA test kits for home use offer at least some information that can be important for making healthcare decisions, including:

  • Overall health
  • Your predisposition for certain diseases and conditions
  • Genetic mutations
  • Hereditary diseases

The raw data you receive from a DNA test is only the beginning. When you give that data to a full-service analysis lab, you can receive nutrition and fitness advice that’s tailored specifically to your genetic makeup.

Some of the surprising information learned through the best DNA tests includes valuable health insights, career aptitudes, and even political orientations.

DNA and Disease

Diagnostic DNA tests look for genes that aren’t working properly and may indicate the onset of disease in the future. They can assist doctors in diagnosing hereditary diseases before symptoms emerge. Early treatment may help prevent symptoms or lessen their severity if they do occur.

Certain gene mutations provide crucial information about a person’s risk for developing specific types of cancer, which can prompt the implementation of preventive measures before symptoms emerge.

Some of the conditions that may be identified with DNA testing include:

  • Cancer
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Celiac disease
  • Diabetes
  • Muscular degeneration
  • Hearing loss
  • Gluten sensitivity
  • Parkinson’s disease

DNA testing can also tell you if you’re a carrier of certain disorders. This can be an important consideration for men and women considering parenthood who may have debilitating mutations in their genes.

Benefits of DNA Testing

DNA testing technology continues to improve every year, and the number of people interested in understanding what their DNA can reveal continues to grow. Some of the benefits of a DNA medical or ancestry test include:

  • Personalizing your medical care and lifestyle to fit your genetics
  • Understanding your body’s nutritional needs through nutrigenomics (a branch of DNA testing)
  • Revealing information about your body’s reaction to different medications
  • Family planning
  • Identifying genetic conditions in your offspring to help plan for healthcare
  • Providing insight into your family history

Knowing yourself better through DNA testing can improve your life in various ways. While they should never be used as a substitute for professional health care, DNA tests Offer information that may help you avoid health problems, connect with long-lost family members, and plan for the future. 

Are Ancestry DNA Tests Reliable?

No testing procedure is ever 100% accurate. However, when you select an FDA-approved test, you can trust that the results are reliable. Over-the-counter DNA tests are held to the same high standard as those used in medical laboratories. Human error or contamination of the sample is always a possibility, but a slight one.

If you’re using DNA information to learn more about your family history, entering your data into an existing database can help confirm that what you’ve learned is accurate. In the case of medical testing, make sure you consult with your physician if DNA testing reveals anything concerning.

Some people wonder if taking more than one DNA test from different companies will provide better or more accurate information. Each company has its own criteria for the markers they’re testing.

For example, one test may mention you have a marker for red hair, while another may not. That doesn’t mean the red-hair marker doesn't exist — it simply means the second company doesn’t provide that information. Conflicting information would be more troubling and serve as a sign that one of the tests was inaccurate. 

Using a reliable data analysis service like Genomelink increases the reliability of your DNA test and gives you more ways to apply that information to your everyday life.

Tomohiro Takano
Tomohiro Takano
Co-Founder and CEO