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    Ask This About Using Genetic Testing For Disease Prevention

    Want to know whether your genetics make you vulnerable to Alzheimer's, Parkinson's or other serious diseases? Now you can get answers at home, thanks to a new genetic testing kit from the California-based company 23andMe Inc. The US Food and Drug Administration just approved the company's Personal Genome Service, which allows people to send saliva samples to be professionally tested for genetic predispositions for various ailments. Keep in mind, having a genetic predisposition doesn't mean you're guaranteed to get sick -- these diseases are rare even among those with dispositions -- but these kits can spark important conversations with their doctors. Read on to learn more about this groundbreaking genetic testing service.

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    How does the new 23andMe test work?

    The testing kit is delivered by mail and easy to use. Essentially all you do is spit into a tube and then mail it to a 23andMe lab using the included, prepaid package.

    How soon do I learn of my test results?

    After mailing your saliva sample to the lab, you should receive an email within six to eight weeks saying your results are ready to view in your online account.

    What are the diseases associated with the tested dispositions?

    This home genetic testing kit detects genetic dispositions for Parkinson's disease, late-onset Alzheimer's disease, celiac disease, alpha-1 antitryspin deficiency, early onset primary dystonia, factor XI deficiency, Gaucher disease type 1, glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency, hereditary hemochromatosis and hereditary thrombophilia.

    What does is mean to have one of these genetic predispositions?

    To have a genetic predisposition to a disease doesn't mean you'll get it -- lifestyle and environmental factors almost always play much larger roles. These diseases are rare even among people with these dispositions. However, people who have these dispositions might want to talk to their doctors about their results.

    Why did these tests just now gain FDA approval?

    The company 23andMe was told by the FDA in 2013 to stop selling its home genetic testing kits. Since then, 23andMe conducted numerous surveys to prove that customers could understand the results of their genetic tests. That was the deciding factor in the FDA's recent decision.

    Are these tests guaranteed to be accurate?

    There is still much debate in the medical community about the accuracy of genetic testing, and that includes these tests. That's partly why the FDA is requiring the 23andMe tests to include information about how to access genetic counseling services.

    Will home genetic tests be made available for other diseases?

    A total of 26,000 genetic tests are available that can detect predispositions for 5,400 medical conditions. After the FDA's recent ruling -- which exempted additional 23andMe genetic tests from further FDA premarket review -- it's only a matter of time before more home kits are available.

    How many genetic dispositions does this test for?

    The newly approved 23andMe Personal Genome Service tests for more than half a million genetic predispositions that have been associated with 10 serious illnesses.