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Just today the pharmacy chain Walgreen Co. announced it will start stocking its shelves with gene testing kits. If you buy this test, you can swab your cheek and send in your sample to find out your risk for inherited diseases like heart disease and Parkinson's. The kit will cost $20 to $30 and the results will set you back $79 to $249.
I couldn't think of a bigger waste of money, time or resources. Please do not buy these kits. If you're concerned about getting a genetic disease, you need to have a conversation with your doctor about it. There are certain conditions which you will NEVER need to be tested for and only your physician can properly guide you about this. For example, Tay-Sachs disease is a rare genetic disease which occurs mostly in Ashkenazi Jews, Cajuns, and French Canadians. If you aren't in one of those groups - chances are you will NEVER get this condition, so why test for it?
Your primary care physician will help you determine your risk and send you to a genetic counselor, who is better equipped to do these tests with blood samples. Swabbing your cheek may not give you the same accuracy as giving a blood sample will. These at-home kits open the door for many errors and misinterpretation. The average person isn't armed with the knowledge to properly interpret the meaning of their results. I think this could also cause unnecessary panic among patients for that same reason. It's never a good idea to self-diagnose even if you're a doctor.
I think being proactive and wanting to know more about your health is a step in the right direction to living healthier, happier lives - I'm all for that. No one can deny that genomics is imperative to our future. But you should be relying on people who have made genetic testing their specialty and can better advise you about your health. So don't waste your money or your time with one of these kits. I believe they can do more harm than good.
Dr. Cynara Coomer is an assistant professor of surgery specializing in breast health and breast cancer surgery at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City. She is a FOX News Health contributor providing medical expertise on a variety of topics in cancer research with a focus on women's health, breast diseases and tips for healthy breasts at any age. If you have a question email her at DrCoomer@foxnews.com