Critter Corner: The Home Genetic Test Told Me I Had the Alzheimer’s Gene

Dear Magic,

I got a home genetic test for Christmas last year. I found out I am Irish, so this year I will be celebrating St. Patrick’s Day for real! When I got the results back, they gave me the option to do the health screening. I paid the extra money and got those results, and I now know that I have the gene for Alzheimer’s. Is it time to panic? What if I want to get Long-Term Care insurance one day? Will they hold it against me?

Thanks!

Jen Nettic

Dear Jen,

Home genetic tests were a hot item during the holiday season, as you can imagine. People, similar to yourself, mailed off their DNA, not just to trace their ancestry, but to trace their chances of developing certain diseases.
Genetic testing is performed both through medical facilities and home testing services. Many people took advantage of the extra service, as you did. With a swab of your cheek, you can discover your chances for developing diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer’s, or diabetes.

Even If You Have the Gene, You Are Not Necessarily Going to Get the Disease!

In my research, I found that having a certain gene show up doesn’t mean you are necessarily doomed to get a certain disease. One person I read about had her DNA tested through her doctors. She said that it revealed that she has a 20% chance of developing heart disease, stroke, or early onset Alzheimer’s. The gene they found was called APOE4 and she got it from one of her parents. Her doctor explained that it doesn’t mean you’re going to get it, it just means you’re more pre-disposed to it.

At-Home Genetic Tests Have Doctors Concerned

While more medical facilities offer genetic testing, many consumers are turning to home test kits, such as 23 and Me, and Ancestry.com. However, a study by Ambry Genetics published March 2018 in Genetics in Medicine found that DTC test kits have up to a 40% false test result.

Do Test Results Hinder Your Chances of Getting Insured?

The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) prohibits health insurance companies from using genetic information to determine a person’s health care coverage. The U.S. National Library of Medicine points out GINA does not apply to disability insurance, long-term care insurance, or life insurance.

The 23andMe website, however, states that “the company does not sell customer information to third parties without their explicit consent, and its written statement to us says data is secured in “walled-off segregated computing environments.”

For Best Results. . .

Experts recommend choosing a genetic health test that uses an accredited or certified lab, seeing if your data will be shared with third parties, and talking with a genetic counselor about your results.

It’s always good to plan in advance for yourself and for your loved ones, regardless of genetic test results. In addition, there are options to consider besides long-term care insurance. Please read our latest article on the subject (link to it) for more details.

Hope this helps! Have fun on St. Patrick’s Day this year!

Magic

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