The advancement of genetic research and the number of private companies offering DNA testing is prompting many people to take a test to find out more about themselves and their family history.
Reasons for taking a DNA test range from family research, to gaining health insights, to certifying paternity results. There are three important points to remember when reading a DNA test.
1. A DNA test is not specific about family genealogy.
Test results will give you percentages regarding ethnicity. However, all testing companies are quick to point out it isn’t an exact science. Companies are comparing data from millions of people submitting tests and use that data to identify various ethnic groups. There are certain identifiable markers within each group, so it is likely a person is of a particular ethnic group if he or she has a number of markers associated with that group. The results, including the percentages, are more of a calculated guess than an exact science, according to those in the field.
Most state the best way to use DNA tests are to combine them with genealogy research using public records.
2. A DNA test will not give you exact medical information.
Any genetic testing used to identify potential health problems should be used as guidance rather a scientific predictor of future health. DNA testing companies will provide general health information, along with ways to improve your health and reduce risk, but don’t provide details.
The company uses genetic markers related to particular ethnic groups. It then relates possible health issues associated with those groups. While it makes for good general information, it isn’t specific to the individual.
3. A DNA test excludes paternity more than it certifies it.
Although there have been TV shows promoting DNA testing to discover the true father of a child, the test doesn’t actually prove who is the father. Most companies test for 21 to 31 genetic markers in a child with half of those coming from the mother. It proves who is likely to be the father by identifying a number of remaining markers in the child that come from the father.
More than that, DNA testing is used to exclude men from paternity. The company excludes men where the children who have differences in three DNA markers. That is scientific and final as the man absolutely cannot be the father with those differences, according to those in the industry.
Receiving DNA testing results can be exciting, interesting and informative. Those taking the test need to be aware of what to expect, how to read the results and how to use the information to better their genealogy research, health or paternity information.