Should you try an at-home genetic test? Do they actually work? A doctor weighs in.


In my opinion, these tests are completely fine for those who are curious about their ancestry or their genetic makeup in general. But many of them have an option for more health-related results, and I wouldn’t advise people to make any major medical decisions based on what they say. Here’s the reason: These tests may be able to tell you if you are at an increased risk for certain diseases, but most can’t provide the amount of specificity needed for you to make smart, informed decisions about pursuing treatments for those diseases.

It’s also not advisable to rely too heavily on the information these tests give you. For example, the product might show that your genetic risk for colon cancer is on the low side, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore screening guidelines.

Another thing: Some tests on the market claim to tell you how you should eat or exercise based on your profile. If this information motivates you to stick to a healthier diet and work out more, go for it, but there’s no reason to shake up a routine that’s already working for you. I recommend bringing any results to your doctor. A medical professional can help you better interpret the report and decide on the appropriate actions to take, if necessary.

Health’s medical editor, Roshini Rajapaksa, MD, is an associate professor of medicine at the NYU School of Medicine and a cofounder of TULA Skincare.