Popular Science

What can genetic testing really tell you?

Risk is not a diagnosis.

All your genetic information is within reach.


Once difficult and expensive even for the most technologically advanced labs, genetic testing is fast becoming a cheap and easy consumer product. With a little spit and 200 dollars, you can find out your risk for everything from cystic fibrosis to lactose intolerance.

But it’s important to remember that not all genetic tests are created equal. And even the best clinical genetic test, carried out in a medical lab under a doctor's supervision, isn't perfect—genes are important, but they don't seal your fate.

Who should get a genetic test?

Genetic tests are diagnostic, so anyone who is curious about their health can get one done. But they're more informative if you think you might be at risk for a genetic disorder.

Heavy-duty genetic tests have been used as a clinical tool for almost half a and Ancestry.com began offering direct-to-consumer tests. Let’s say that many women in your family have had breast cancer. You can get a genetic test to see if you may have inherited an abnormal version of the BRCA gene, known to increase your risk for breast cancer.

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from Popular Science

Popular Science3 min readFood & Wine
Steam, Bake, Broil, And Toast From An App With This Countertop Smart Oven
The Tovala oven makes cooking easier with their pre-made meal program and frozen food bar code scanner.
Popular Science4 min read
Early Climate Change Models Held Up Better Than You Think
Climate models have come a long way. The earliest attempt to estimate what an increase in carbon dioxide could do to surface temperatures on Earth was published in 1896. More projections began to crop up in the ‘60s and ‘70s, at a time when many scie
Popular Science2 min read
Handy Repair Kits For Your Broken Toilet
Our relationship with toilets is complicated. We trust our bare derrières to the seat day in and day out, yet most of us don’t think twice about how toilets function. DIY fixes are usually limited to what we can do by jiggling the handle or plunging—