Mail-in Genetic Testing Unreliable, Misleading

But in some cases, the companies may be distorting the context of test results. In explaining how the results translate into real life risk, one company told a donor that her high risk of cancer meant that she was in "high risk of pretty much getting it" -- a shockingly inaccurate and irresponsible interpretation of the nebulous genetic test, experts said.

Questionable practices and deceptive marketing were also displayed by the companies and their websites, with one donor being told that she could secretly collect her fiance's DNA sample to "surprise" him, even though this breach of privacy is illegal in at least 29 states, according to the Genetics and Public Policy Center at Johns Hopkins University.

Nutritional supplements supposedly tailored to the donor's DNA were advertised as able to replace prescription medications for high blood pressure and high cholesterol -- a practice that markets illegally markets the supplement as a drug without the required FDA approval, Kutz said.

Companies Defend the Industry

The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations grilled representatives from 23andMe, Navigenics, and Pathway Genomics over the findings during a Wednesday hearing held to discuss the public health effects of direct-to-consumer genetic tests.

The companies defended their products and said that consumers have the right to know their genome in order to make informed health decisions.

"People have the right to access their genetic information if they want to do that," said Ashley Gould, general counsel for 23andMe.

Dr. Vance Vanier, president and CEO of Navigenics, said, "This sort of testing is safe and does not cause long term undue psychologic harm."

Gould said she was "concerned by the percentage of discordance" in the GAO report, but added that 23andMe is "extremely confident in the analytical work we do."

Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), chairman of the subcommittee, shot back: "Then why wouldn't you get the same results as the other companies?"

But after the presentation, 23andMe spokesperson Adam Isserlis told ABCNews.com that the GAO refused to discuss the flawed report with the company, but reaffirmed that they are confident in the accuracy of their services.

"We embrace the ideas that the FDA offered today and look forward to helping to develop a regulatory framework that provides standards and transparency across the industry," the company said in a statement to ABC News.

Debate Rages Over DNA Test Value

One witness, Dr. James Evans, a professor of genetics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, agreed that people should have the choice to access a profile of their genes, but he said the current tests don't actually deliver the medical value that they promise.

"The value of the bulk of this information is extremely low," Evans told the panel. He used an example of a person discovering through a home genetic test that he has an increased risk to develop Crohn's disease.

In his testimony today, Kutz concluded that while genetic testing is a promising area of science, "consumers need to know that today, genetic testing for certain diseases appears to be more of an art than a science."

King echoed this concern, saying that these results "are being marketed as extremely significant information, and that is a problem. [Consumers] have come to believe that genetic information is the most significant information about someone's health, and this is misguided," she says.

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