SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — Your DNA can expose much more than your ethnicity or family tree.
Companies 23andMe and Ancestry DNA passed our CBS13 test last year, when we sent in saliva samples of quadruplets Gabe, Zeb, Katie and Hugh.
Despite making up different ethnic sounding last names, each company linked the four identifying them as siblings. It also showed each had similar heritage.
“That actually surprised me a little bit with the change of their last name,” mom Amy Nelson said after the test.
DNA expert Dr. Ruth Ballard, who teaches at Sacramento State, says these tests are quite accurate but warns of possible consequences.
“Be prepared to find out something that isn’t comfortable.”
She says you could learn your ethnicity is different than what your family told you. It could expose if you have a different father or are adopted.
As we recently learned, if you make your DNA profile public, law enforcement could find it. In the case of the East Area Rapist and Golden State Killer, detectives say they cracked the case and tracked down Joseph DeAngelo to his Citrus Heights home after finding a relative’s DNA profile on a public genealogy website.
“It may fly in the face of what think about your family,” Dr. Ballard said.
Genetic tests uncovered a fertility doctor in Indiana used his own sperm, instead of a donors to father potentially dozens of children.
“You need to be prepared for possible bad news,” Dr. Ballard said.
For example, my 23andMe test showed me I have an increased risk for late-onset Alzheimer’s. It raises the questions, should I be sitting with a doctor when I hear that news and should I tell the rest of my family considering they have the same genes?
“Keep in mind that those results may affect them, too, in ways they affect you,” Ballard said.
She recommends asking family if they want to know to know.
“My deepest concern is really the privacy issue,” Nelson said.
Dr. Ballard says it’s a reasonable concern. DNA profiles shared with the wrong people like insurance companies or employers can be devastating.
“If they know you’re going to get Alzheimer’s, they may not promote you, or hire you,” she said.
She recommends entering fake names like we did with the quads. If you are really concerned about your privacy, she says do not do one of these DNA tests.
“Once you’ve given your DNA, you’ve given it,” she said. “And there’s tons of information in that DNA.”