Direct-to-consumer (DTC) genetic screening companies, also referred to as at-home genetic testing, have operated for several years offering broad genetic testing, which is marketed directly to consumers and can be performed without a prescription from a physician.
What is At-Home Genetic Testing?
The technology used in DTC tests only looks at certain areas of the genes being analyzed that are more common in certain ethnic populations, known as single nucleotide polymorphism (SNPs). This type of genetic testing is often used more recreationally to learn about one’s ancestry or common traits, such as the ability to smell asparagus.
While some health related information can be gleaned from these tests, because it is not considered to be a clinical test, results often have limited utility when it comes to medical management. Any health related result from DTC testing should be confirmed by a clinical laboratory.
What About Private Genetic Testing?
If there are specific concerns regarding your personal or family history, only a clinical based genetic test can provide insightful and actionable health information. These tests are tailored to your specific situation and aim to provide useful information to help you make informed decisions about your health.
In Canada, clinical genetic counseling and testing is available through publicly funded institutions with a physician’s referral and only if you meet certain criteria.
Genolife and Private Genetic Testing
Unfortunately, there are not enough resources for all those seeking genetic counseling to be seen in a timely manner in the public sector.
For this reason, private genetic clinics, like Genolife, are now available in Canada. Although these services are found online and offer at-home genetic testing kits, they are very different from DTC companies.
At Genolife, we provide a telehealth service and offer genetic screening through the same trusted laboratories using the same sequencing technology as available in the public sector.
A referral from a physician is required and testing is prescribed based on your specific situation. For example, if you are worried about your family history of early-onset breast cancer you may be offered genetic testing for hereditary forms of breast cancer but not for Alzheimer’s and dementia if there is no family history of the disease.
Genolife’s genetic counseling clinic provides clinical testing along with the necessary counseling by a certified prevention genetics counselor. You and your referring physician will be provided with the relevant information, interpretation, and recommendations following a genetic test or risk assessment. You will not be left to navigate and interpret the information on your own.
What Type of Genetic Testing Do You Want?
If you are curious about your ancestry or knowing what type of earwax you produce, then DTC testing is a very good tool to learn about these aspects of yourself.
However, before making any important medical decisions based on genetic information, it is important to seek appropriate genetic counseling and clinical genetic testing. Genolife is here to help you every step of the way!
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Other resources :
Canadian Association of Genetic Counselors policy statement on DTC genetic testing: https://www.cagc-accg.ca/doc/CAGC DTC Statement – FINAL 2018-04-11(1).pdf
Canadian Medical Association policy statement on DTC genetic testing: https://www.cma.ca/sites/default/files/2018-11/cma-policy-direct-to-consumer-genetic-testing-pd17-05-e.pdf