23andMe was one of the first testing companies on the scene in the DNA testing game. With over 10 million users, the company has a solid foundation for analyzing health risks and a person’s ancestry composition. In this 23andMe review, we will walk you through different aspects of 23andMe’s health reports and ancestry reports. Below are some pros and cons of using a 23andMe test.
- One of the first genetic testing companies
- Analyze your genetic health risks
- View your ancestry composition
- Backed by Google
- Over 10 million users
- No ability to create a family tree, must use 3rd party company to build a family tree
- Not the cheapest genetic testing company
- Company has had issues with the FDA, though they are now approved to market health tests
What To Expect
When you order a 23andMe test, they will send you a DNA collection kit. The kit provides instructions on how to collect a saliva sample. After collecting your sample, simply seal the sample in the provided bag and mail it back to the company. The lab will receive your sample and within a few weeks will provide you a link to your reports. You may receive health reports and/or ancestry reports, depending on the package that you ordered.
Get Your Results
23andMe provides two basic packages. The first is the Ancestry Service, which will only provide you reports on your ancestry composition. The second is the Health + Ancestry Service, which analyzes your genetic makeup for ethnic origins and also provides you health reports relating to the genetic variants you carry. Let’s take a look at what you will find with these reports:
These set of reports include a number of useful features related to your family history. First, using reference populations as a comparison, your genes are analyzed. This provides you with a rough estimate of your ancestry composition. For example, you may find that your family history has European roots, and the reports will break down your ethnicity into the smaller regions your genes came from.
Because 23andMe has one of the largest user bases, it is likely that they provide one of the most accurate analyses of your ethnicity. Further, you can use the platform to find and communicate with DNA relatives. To use this feature, you must opt-in and your DNA relatives must also have used the platform.
Health + Ancestry Reports
In addition to the ancestry reports provided by the ancestry composition test, the health test will give you insights into your personal genetic risks for a number of diseases. These diseases include Alzheimer's, Parkinson’s disease, Celiac disease, Type 2 Diabetes, and breast cancer. However, some of these reports are better than others.
For example, the FDA demanded that 23andMe stop marketing it’s health-related tests. The BRCA1/BRCA2 genes have been shown to influence breast cancer, but they are not the only factors. 23andMe was essentially telling its customers that if they had certain genetic variants, they would get cancer. Likewise, people without the variants assumed that they would be cancer free. Neither of these conclusions is appropriate because cancer and genetics are enormously complex. Likewise, the company will test your risk of getting Alzheimer’s. The exact causes of this disease are not known. The company is simply reporting what genetic information you have, and what correlations have been found relating to your variants. None of the tests are conclusive, nor would they be thorough enough for a healthcare provider. However, the FDA has reversed its decision and now allows 23andMe to market their health tests.
One very useful report is the carrier status reports. Carrier status reports are based on genetic diseases which are known to be caused by single, specific genes. Having these variants can definitely increase your chances of getting a disease. Knowing your carrier status for certain genetic variants allows you to determine the risks you may pass on to your children.
But, enough of what you will get. Let’s see what actually people thought about 23andMe!
From 23andMe: 4 of 5 Stars with over 3,000 reviews
From Consumer Affairs: 2.9 of 5 stars with 116 reviews
From Amazon: 4 of 5 Stars with over 2,000 reviews
With well over 5,000 reviews online, it is clear that 23andMe has a large and active customer base. In general, the company scored very well and had few negative reviews. Customers upset with 23andMe often had problems with obtaining their results or returning their saliva sample to the company. These few negative reviews aside, most people were happy with the service and felt it provided useful information in regard to their family history and genetic health risks.