Wednesday, March 26, 2014

To DNA or not to DNA, that is the question...


DNA testing has become widespread in our society today. DNA is collected and analyzed by police and security forces around the world, newborn infants are routinely screened for a number of genetic conditions, lawyers make use of DNA in paternity suits, and genealogists are using it to solve family inheritance problems as well as to peer into their deep genetic roots. But questions, fears, and misconceptions arise in many people when they contemplate having their own DNA tested. What are the issues? Why are some people afraid to have a test? Here are some possibilities:

1. You are a crook or have committed some type of crime and don't really want anyone linking you to a crime scene. This is a valid concern and if you fit into this category, I would recommend you avoid getting a DNA test.

2. You plan to become a crook or felon in the near future. Again, a valid concern (see #1 above).

3. You are afraid that Johnny and Mary will find out that you are not really their biological father (or biological mother). This is also a legitimate concern and, again, if you fit into this category, I would recommend against getting a DNA test. Johnny and Mary, however, may be interested in the results of such a test.

4. You would really prefer not to know if you predisposed to get colon cancer or Alzheimer's disease. For many people life is much more pleasant if they have no idea what the future might hold. If you are one of these, then you probably do not want to get a DNA test, at least not one that reports back on your health tendencies. However, knowing that you might be susceptible could help you get early therapy and prevent these types of things from ever becoming a problem.

5. You have no interest in who you might be related to, and in fact, no interest in humanity in general. Yes, I agree, if this is your category, then DNA testing is not for you.

6. You are afraid that you might have more than your share of Neanderthal DNA. See my earlier post (Yes, I am a Caveman) on this issue if you fall into this category.

7. You are afraid that you will lose your health insurance if your DNA shows you have a predisposition toward certain diseases and conditions. This was a legitimate concern, but President Obama and the U.S. Congress have fixed things. Now, the more preexisting conditions you have the easier it is for you to get insurance. It's those of us who are healthy most of the time that have to worry.

8. You are afraid that your identity will be more easily stolen. This is, of course, just the opposite of the truth. Your DNA is completely unique to you and cannot be stolen by anyone else. Someone can easily duplicate your ID cards, they can get a hold of your bank accounts, they can even have plastic surgery to make themselves look just like you, but they cannot steal your DNA.

For more information of DNA testing, here are a couple of good articles:
 Come back soon for my take on the DNA tests and services offered by the three main companies that do it for genealogical purposes: FamilyTree DNA, 23andMe, and AncestryDNA.

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