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Genetic Roots

Because she was adopted at a very young age, Marie Tae McDermott writes at the New York Times Well blog that she doesn't know much about her family medical history. She can't say, for instance, whether breast cancer runs in her family.

After first trying out genetic testing on her dog — he's a Chihuahua — she decided to undergo testing herself through 23andMe. From this, McDermott learned that her ancestors were from Korea, which she'd been told, with a few ancestors who hailed from Japan and China mixed in there as well. "Seeing my genealogy for the first time was thrilling," she adds.

McDermott didn't, though, learn too much about her health risks, other than a slightly elevated risk for rheumatoid arthritis and ulcerative colitis, and a higher than average risk for restless leg syndrome. Other adoptees she spoke with, though, learned more about their health risks. Bee, for instance, was able to confirm that she had a rare genetic kidney disorder.

At the Huffington Post, Robert Green from Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School notes that he and his colleagues recently studied why adoptees seek genetic testing and whether the experience lives up to their expectations. They reported in Genetics in Medicine last month that adoptees were more likely than non-adoptees to seek genetic testing to learn more about their family medical history. While adoptees found their genetic testing results to be valuable, some were frustrated about the lack of detail or that it didn't lead them to any close relatives.

"For me, DNA confirmed what I already knew: that the past is murky," McDermott says at the Well blog.