WICHITA, Kan. (KAKE) - "I'm just hoping to learn a little bit more truth in my background of where, you know, things originated, " said Naquela Pack.

From television to social media, you see the ads everywhere now for at home DNA test kits. They promise to tell you your undiscovered ethnic history, screen you for genetic disorders, even help you find the best diet to lose weight. These do-it-yourself kits are growing in popularity, especially among underserved communities with often undocumented histories.

The annual Home DNA Testing Market report estimates the market value of these test kits will grow to $22 billion this year, and keep growing by 8.8% annually for the next five years.

But do the kits work? And if so, how? What about privacy concerns?

"This is something a little bit serious, you know, about my background and my heritage, you know?" Pack said.

Like many African Americans, she has holes in what she knows about her ethnic heritage.

"My mom's side, Caucasian side, we've got history traced for centuries," she said. But, "on my father's side, my African American side, it's been very, very hard."

To help fill in those holes, she agreed to help KAKE News Investigates test three take home DNA kits.

Just picking which one to use can be an adventure.

"It can be overwhelming of which one?" she said. "Why do I want this one over this one? Or, which one's the most accurate?"

We tested three of the ten most popular take-home kits: Ancestry.com, 23AndMe, and My Heritage. Ancestry and 23AndMe tend to dominate the field, while My Heritage was the cheapest of the most common kits.

"Access is important. And I mean, that was one thing with my family of wanting to do this," Pack said. "Some of them, I'm like, I'm not putting $100 on there. So yeah, price is definitely a barrier."

And, as we'll find out in a bit, who participates in taking these tests does make a difference in the results you get. So access matters in more ways than one.

Two of the kits required spitting into a vial, the third used a cheek swab. Both are standard means of collecting DNA samples for testing. Then, we packed them up and mailed them off for evaluation.

While we waited for the results to come back, KAKE News Investigates looked up leaders in Bioethics, the field of moral thought surrounding biomedicine and biomedical research, including genetic testing. Pack had some questions for them.

"The fears of, 'Okay, where else could the DNA be used?' Privacy violations. So that is a bit concerning," she said. "And I don't know how deep that goes."

"It's an incredible market. but it is unregulated," said Dr. John Loike, a bioethicist at Touro University, a private institution in New York City.

He explained that means you need to take a close look at the terms and conditions of any DNA test you use. He says that's the only way to know what a company can legally do with your personal genetic information once it has it.

But our ethics specialists had another concern, misunderstanding what the company's report, or the results in general, mean.

"I think that will lead to a very important thing these testing companies do not do. They don't provide genetic counseling," Loike said.

Along with not understanding what the results really mean, especially in kits that promise medical screening, Loike says there's also a lot of misunderstanding of how the companies get their results.

"What they're doing when they're assigning ancestry categories to you is they're seeing who you're genetically similar to," said Dr. Anna Lewis, a bioethicist at Harvard University. "They're not actually following anything about ancestry."

Instead, they're looking at bits and pieces of your genetic code, or snips as they call them, where we vary the most.

"You can look at a total population, look at these markers, like scores and the snips, and you can make predictions," Loike said. "They can be useful but they are not always very accurate. It's guilt by association."

And each company uses it's own set of snips. Thus possibly getting different results.

He shares a story of a family that sent their dog's spit in to see what results they would get.

"They decided to send their German Shepherd's saliva, from the German Shepherd, to the company, and it came back that this person was from Germany," he said.

"It's not that it's less accurate. It's just that it's much less comprehensive," Lewis explained.

When it comes to medical screenings, since it's not a comprehensive look at all of your DNA, these take home kits are only good for the few health measures they do look at. There are hundreds more that genetic screening at a medical facility would look for.

"So your whole genome is three billion letters long spread across all your chromosomes," Lewis said. "This type of testing, they have a list of a few hundred thousand points that they're going to go and look at."

Getting back to the genealogical tests, because the results are based on comparing your DNA snips to what each company has in its own private database, accuracy often depends on how big that database is. And, the results won't be identical from company to company.

"I'm excited to see the differences. similarities," Pack said as we sat down to look at her results a few weeks later. "There was a lot of questions when I submitted them to what could be revealed."

All three tests showed the same basic components in her ancestral heritage, primarily European and African ancestry, but the actual breakdowns varied.

"It's interesting to see the percentages differ and what it appears to be. The central locations are are the same," she said. "So they're... the trace DNA is not acknowledged on the Ancestry.com... I think 23AndMe kind of gets a bit more detailed it seems."

Pack did get answers to some of her biggest questions.

"That's very interesting because my grandmother always said, my great-great-grandfather was indigenous but it did not reveal on her. She did Ancestry.com (years ago)," Pack said. She points to the 23AndMe report that shows 0.2% Indigenous ancestry. "And there it is. Very small percentage, but interesting."

But the process wasn't always as easy as the ads promote.

"Updating results," she said, frustrated, as she looked at the My Heritage report showing only a spinning circle. "So they're doing something something... what's happening?"

My Heritage was the least expensive of the three tests we ran and it was the one she had the most issues with.

"This was the one that their system was hacked and so we got the email," she said. "And then we didn't have enough saliva, so I had to redo it. And now the results are being updated and so I'm not able to figure that out."

She did get access to that report after we left and it showed the same basic results.

Pack was happy with what she learned.

"I'm excited to to have some of these breakdowns just to better associate, you know, some of my heritage and some of the missing questions from when I've done some digging," she said.

Our experts caution, though, take those results with a grain of salt...

"They're primarily... they're just for your interest. It's like, a hobby...they're for fun, basically," said Lewis.

"I think if you want to do ethnicity, that's fine," Loike said.

One thing to keep in mind is that the science behind DNA testing is a developing and evolving thing. What we know now is leaps and bounds ahead of what we knew a decade or two ago. And scientists are learning more every day. With each new nugget of information comes more accuracy but also new ethical concerns.