Renee Williams is a contributing writer for Augusta Family Magazine. Below is part two of her article about the purchase of two DNA test kits online. To read part one of Renee’s story see: www.augustafamily.com/the-respect-of-dna.
For Dylan, red flags abound with providing his DNA sample and I reasoned that perhaps his decision might even be part of his DNA, in so much as his personality and behavior traits of agreeableness, neuroticism and openness to experience. I concluded my son is carefully, elaborately and wonderfully made, created in my womb yet embroidered of his own fabrics, encoded with the message by which he will grow and develop, and ultimately reach his full potential and his own decisions and that is by design.
After our conversation, I dug deeper into my son’s concerns because Dylan is actually right, nowadays security and privacy cannot be assumed.
Between hacks of major social media companies and underhanded sharing of data with third parties, there are clear signs of negligent acts and dangers of storing data without following best security practices, so what would make DNA companies exempt from such indiscretions? At this point, I’m not sure anyone really knows or understands exactly how their data is being used, shared and protected.
However, I am still interested in finishing the test and although Dylan doesn’t want to submit his DNA sample, I can still share my results with him as part of my legacy to him which in essence is still a gift. I have always had a deep desire to know more about my ancestors, genetic history and biological origins. The longing to know where we come from is a typical desire as humans desire attachment, belonging and a sense of connection. Knowing where you come from breathes life and meaning into your identity and provides an automatic sort of belonging and unity within a group as well as a personal link to the past.
Some DNA test kits can not only provide insight into where we come from but can also provide insight into where we are going in the future with the amazing ability to detect genetic health issues. Some people inherit tendencies toward heart disease, diabetes and other chronic diseases. There have been isolated and studied, about 1,800 genetically determined diseases, such as sickle-cell anemia and Down syndrome. The ability to detect genetic health issues with a DNA test kit means people can better manage their health risks and thereby be proactive in managing medical issues. Also, by participating in research we will all contribute to having better health in the future.
Tests such as 23andMe predict higher risks of developing serious conditions, such as multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, including the test for BRCA1/BRCA2 (breast and ovarian cancer). Oscar-winning actress Angelina Jolie found out through genetic testing that she is at high risk for breast cancer. She ultimately decided to undergo a prophylactic bilateral mastectomy to reduce her risk of developing the disease. However, the results you receive from a DNA test kit is complex information and you should always work with a genetic counselor to understand your results.
DNA testing, which requires nothing more than a little bit of saliva is introducing new audiences to genetics and getting people thinking about their health. DNA testing is also helping to build vast genetic databases from which medical research will be conducted. But for individual users, as was the case for me and my son Dylan, there are important caveats to consider before testing.
Users should ask themselves why they want the test and determine how they might feel if they receive results containing information they would rather not know. Users should also consider issues around security and privacy. It is important to read the fine print of the service you’re using and determine whether you’re comfortable sharing personal information, now and in the future. Finally, it may also be worth discussing DNA testing with relatives because the results not only affect you but families as a whole.
Renee Williams, contributor of the Augusta Family Magazine.