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Medical professionals urge caution before using at-home DNA kits

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By: Crystal Haynes, Boston25News.com

At-home DNA kits have become popular during the holiday season, but medical professionals have a warning for anyone looking to buy one.

You could have an aunt from Africa, a father with Danish roots, or a niece with Native American ancestry, but health care industry professionals are warning consumers to think before you buy any of these kits during the holidays.

“The privacy concerns are real,” said Mary-Alice Abbott, chief of genetics at the Baystate Medical Center. “And you may not want to find out about your relatedness to people you don’t know.”

Abbott said you may not want a private company collecting and keeping your genomic data.

AncestryDNA, the most popular company, says it sold 1.6 million kits over the four-day Black Friday to Cyber Monday weekend last year.

In a statement, an AncestryDNA spokesman said their information security program is designed to protect customer data, and said they don’t share customer DNA with insurers, employers or third-party marketers.

“Certainly, your genes are not your destiny,” Abbott said. “There’s a lot of things who influence who we are and our health, and who we’re gonna be.”

Companies like Orig3n’s child development DNA claims to test whether your child has a predisposition for certain sports, is a picky eater or can easily learn new languages.

Child psychologists say results from tests like these could affect how parents would have otherwise raised their children.

“In general, we discourage genetic testing of children,” Abbott said. “It’s not particularly helpful in terms of taking care of them. I think, in terms of directed consumer genetic testing, this is for adults only.”

AncestryDNA officials said they will also not share customer personal information with law enforcement, unless compelled to by a valid legal process.

Abbott said the bottom line is if someone wants to test their DNA for fun, they can go for it. But, if they’re looking to do it for any other reason, they should get help from a professional.

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