Popular Science

What can genetic testing really tell you?

Risk is not a diagnosis.

All your genetic information is within reach.


Once difficult and expensive even for the most technologically advanced labs, genetic testing is fast becoming a cheap and easy consumer product. With a little spit and 200 dollars, you can find out your risk for everything from cystic fibrosis to lactose intolerance.

But it’s important to remember that not all genetic tests are created equal. And even the best clinical genetic test, carried out in a medical lab under a doctor's supervision, isn't perfect—genes are important, but they don't seal your fate.

Who should get a genetic test?

Genetic tests are diagnostic, so anyone who is curious about their health can get one done. But they're more informative if you think you might be at risk for a genetic disorder.

Heavy-duty genetic tests have been used as a clinical tool for almost half a and Ancestry.com began offering direct-to-consumer tests. Let’s say that many women in your family have had breast cancer. You can get a genetic test to see if you may have inherited an abnormal version of the BRCA gene, known to increase your risk for breast cancer.

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