23andMe Personal Genetic Testing

March 2013

in Health & Fitness, Knowledge & Education

Post image for 23andMe Personal Genetic Testing

23andMe provides a full suite of genetic tests covering 120 disease risks, 49 carrier statuses, 21 drug responses, and 57 traits, not to mention a breakdown of your genetic ancestry.

At the end of 2012, 23andMe dropped the price of their personal genetic testing kit to $100.

I couldn’t resist. Merry Christmas me!

The Results

I finally got my results back this week. The report, spread across many pages on the 23andMe website, is broken down into two areas: health and ancestry.

Ancestry

As expected, I pretty much have 100% European ancestry and have approximately 3.2% neanderthal genes. Also, my paternal haplogroup is extremely similar to Steven Colbert’s. No big deal.

Health

Without going into any detail, I’m happy to report there was no disastrous or horrible news!

I’m a carrier for exactly 0 of the tested items (such as Tay-Sach’s Disease). I have an above-average risk of Coronary Heart Disease, which has been problem on one side of my family, as well as age-related macular degeneration. This is unfortunate but not surprising for me, given some family history. It’s also additional motivation to eat healthy and stay active. Also, I have a significantly lower risks of colorectal cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. Nice!

Why Get Tested?

I’m sure people’s reasons for getting a personal genetic test vary. There are a few reasons why I did it:

  1. It’s freakin’ cool. Spit in a little tube and two months later you know exactly what percentage of your DNA is neanderthal, whether you share a haplogroup with Napoleon, and whether you should prepare for Alzheimer’s later in life.
  2. It’s for science. 23andme doesn’t only provide you with personal genetic testing. It also uses this data (given your permission, and anonymously) to further scientific research in genetics. They’ve already made several novel discoveries with the data provided by 23andme users. Who doesn’t want to support that?
  3. It’s useful. A lot of the data is purely informative and fun to know. But some if it is quite actionable. Very few diseases, for example, are entirely genetic, there is almost always an environmental component. Knowing, say, that you have a higher risk of a heart attack is incentive to be proactive about it.
  4. It’s only $100! I mean, seriously. $100 for a bunch of genetic testing? The same thing would probably cost $1,000,000 ten years ago. In the grand scheme of things, $100 for this information is a no-brainer.

Are There Risks?

There are only two non-trivial risks that I can think of with using a service such as this:

  1. Bad news. There is a very real chance of finding out some awful things, such as wether you have Alzheimers Disease. For the more serious results—where a positive result is both a potentially disastrous finding and the results are high-confidence—23andme does force you to go through a few extra mouse clicks to actually view your results.
  2. Good news. There’s probably a risk of good news having a negative effect: “I have a low risk of Type 1 Diabetes, I can eat as much sugar as I want!” Nah guy.
  3. Legal implications from knowing. Having certain knowledge might make you accountable. If you have documentation showing that you “know” you have a higher-than-average risk of Coronary Heart Disease, could this give a health insurance company reasonable ground to deny you coverage because of a “pre-existing condition”? What are the potential legal implications of knowing about your health risks? I’m still not sure how I feel about this one. If I was American I’d be more concerned about this and probably have done a bit more research into it. But in my situation my curiosity and desire to help science was greater than these concerns. Also, at least for now, I have free Canadian health care.

What do you think? If these concerns bother you too much, 23andme may not be for you. Otherwise, get tested today!

Has anyone else here been tested, or are planning on getting tested?

Do it for science!

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