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Breast Cancer Awareness Month will cause many women to worry about their hereditary risk for developing the disease, especially if it runs in their family.

Genetic testing can answer that piece of the puzzle for breast and many other types of cancer, as well as a variety of diseases. It used to be costly, and require doctor’s orders and appointments. But anyone can now buy a fairly inexpensive DNA testing kit online and receive some answers without leaving home as part of a growing industry known as direct-to-consumer genetic testing.

How it works:

It usually means providing a saliva sample and sending it back to the company for lab analysis, with the results accessible via a secure online portal or sent in a letter. Depending on the company, a physician doesn’t necessarily have to be involved to order the kit or get the findings.

Proponents say it democratizes the process, giving people more access to their genetic information and allowing them to take action to protect their health. But experts also worry about the tests’ validity and false reassurance, and... see more