Personal DNA testing kits
Personal DNA testing kits have been available in the UK for some years now.
The services can cost more than £100 and allow members of the public to have their DNA analysed to find out about their personal health risks and other genetic traits.
These are different products to those available for paternity testing, or for genetic testing arranged by doctors for certain inherited health conditions or genetic tendencies.
Read our FAQs to discover more.
What is a personal DNA testing kit?
The kits are designed for an individual to collect a sample of their DNA at home and send it off for laboratory analysis.
For a fee he or she will receive a report indicating whether his or her genes make them susceptible to certain inherited conditions such as cystic fibrosis or sickle cell anaemia.
The test may also reveal risk factors for certain diseases or conditions such as blood clotting abnormalities, Alzheimer's disease or Parkinson's disease.
It can also indicate how their body might respond to specific medications, such as warfarin or hepatitis C treatments.
The results could also help people explore their genetic traits, such as whether they are more likely to have lactose intolerance or develop male pattern baldness.
In addition, the information could help people explore their ancestry and find out what percentage of their DNA comes from a certain area of the world or even which regions of a particular country.
How do the services work?
The DNA testing kits come with instructions about how to provide a sample of saliva.
The sample is given a unique code and is sent back by post for laboratory analysis.
Once the sample has been processed the user can sign in to see their health and ancestry reports on a personal homepage.
Why can the kits be sold in the UK?
The UK's Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) regulates genetic tests in the UK, although it advises that the tests should be used with caution.
It says products used in personal DNA testing services are regulated to meet minimum standards. People who use these products should ensure that they are CE marked and remember that no test is 100% reliable, so think carefully before using personal DNA services.
It also cautions that if after using the service you have any questions or concerns you should speak to your healthcare professional. If you are concerned that you have an incorrect result due to a faulty product you can report this to the MHRA.
Genetic testing is only part of the story when it comes to the risk of having certain health conditions. A person's lifestyle has a big role to play - including diet, exercise, weight and smoking status.
The group Genetic Disorders UK says that "without guidance and support from a healthcare professional it can be difficult to interpret test results and make health decisions on the basis of these [personal DNA test results]."