Alert
Close

Think you know AARP? What you don’t know about us may surprise you. Discover all the ‘Real Possibilities’

HIGHLIGHTS

Open

REAL POSSIBILITIES

AARP Real Possibilities
Car buying made easy with the AARP Auto Buying Program

Download the ipad App

AARP-iPad-ePub-app

DRIVER SAFETY

Piggy bank on the road - AARP Driver Safety

Take the new AARP Smart Driver Course!

Contests and
Sweeps

Safe Driving in 2014 Sweepstakes

Learn how AARP Driver Safety can help you stay safe—and enter for a chance to win $1,000. See official rules. 

KEEP BRAIN ACTIVE!

AARP Games - Play Now!

AARP BOOKS

Planning for Long-Term Care for Dummies

Get expert advice on planning for your own or a relative’s future care needs.

Webinars

Learn From the Experts

Sign up now for an upcoming webinar or find materials from a past session.

Learning centers

Get smart strategies for managing health conditions.

 

Arthritis

Heart Disease

Diabetes

Most Popular

Viewed

share your thoughts

What does the health care law mean to you? Your story is important. We read and learn from every story and it helps us in our educational efforts. We may even use your comments (with permission) to brief legislators, inspire readers and more. Please share your story with us. Do

Over-the-Counter Genetic Tests: Buyer Beware

The results can be horrifyingly wrong

En español | In this age of astonishing genetic innovations, consumers can surf the Internet for genetic tests that claim to show whether they run the risk of developing heart disease, Alzheimer's and many other illnesses, including cancers. Often the same test promises to deliver innocuous or oddball information such as whether the consumer carries genes for detecting sweaty smells, developing freckles or hating brussels sprouts.

Sign up for AARP's Health Newsletter.

A group of cotton swabs. Over-the-counter genetic tests may not be accurate.

Over-the-counter genetic tests don't always deliver on their promises. — Photo by Getty Images

There's no question that certain genetic tests can identify a specific gene that causes a rare disorder or specific mutation that causes some hereditary diseases like breast and ovarian cancers. But an undercover investigation by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) last year suggested that so-called direct-to-consumer genetic testing companies are misleading consumers in ways that could be "dangerous, irresponsible and deceptive."

As part of the investigation that documented examples of what the GAO described as the "deceptive marketing" of 15 direct-to-consumer genetic tests, five GAO researchers posing as consumers submitted DNA samples — taken from saliva or by swabbing the inside of their cheeks — to four different genetic testing companies. What came back were contradictory results that the report called "misleading and of little or no practical use."

Disease predictions from the genetic testing companies often conflicted with the investigators' actual medical histories. One undercover consumer who has a pacemaker to correct an irregular heartbeat was told he was at decreased risk for developing such a condition. That same consumer, a colon cancer survivor, received test results from one company that he was "at average risk of developing the disease."

Next: Don't seek out genetic test without doctor's support. >>

Topic Alerts

You can get weekly email alerts on the topics below. Just click “Follow.”

Manage Alerts

Processing

Please wait...

progress bar, please wait

Tell Us WhatYou Think

Please leave your comment below.

Discounts & Benefits

From companies that meet the high standards of service and quality set by AARP.

Woman trying on glasses in optometrists shop

Members save up to 60% off eye exams and 30% off eyeglasses at Pearle Vision.

Prescription medication spilling out of bottle

Members get a free Rx card from AARP® Prescription Discounts provided by Catamaran.

AARP/Walgreens Wellness Bus Stops in Clarksdale, MS

Members can get exclusive points offers from Walgreens and Duane Reade.

Caregiving walking

Caregiving can be a lonely journey, but AARP offers resources that can help.