Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Health Results from 23andme

When I first discussed with my daughter, Liz, that I wanted to submit a sample to 23andme, we discussed her concerns.  First of all, she is a Genetic Counselor.  Secondly, there is a bit of a debate within the Genetic Counselor community about the wisdom of "direct to consumer" DNA analysis.  Will the typical consumer be able to understand the results (much less be able to deal with potentially negative results)?  After all, that is what Genetic Counselors do.  There are genes that have been identified that are associated with breast cancer.  Worse yet, what if an analysis shows that you have a gene that will definitely lead to an early death -- like Hungtington's.  Do you really want to know that your genes predict that you are likely to develop Alzheimer's?  What about Parkinson's?  All of these are possibilities and something you should consider.

I am 62 years old.  I already have experienced some significant health issues.  Would the results support what I already know?  In my family, there is a significant history of cancer.  We all "assume" that that is what will eventually kill us.  Quite a few relatives have developed macular degeneration.  And the bigger question -- how strong is the science behind 23andme's health predictions?

I told my daughter that if she didn't want to know the results, I wouldn't share them.  She said she didn't think I could keep my mouth shut.  Even if I could, she wasn't sure that she could stand "not knowing" if I knew.  I decided I was going to do it anyway.

Well the results came.  I was pleasantly surprised.  For one thing, they let you know whether or not you are a "carrier" for genes that are responsible for things like cystic fibrosis, sickle cell, etc.  I found out that I was not a carrier for any one of them!  What a nice thing to know.  You can click on each disease for a description of what it is.  The yellow stars indicate the level of confidence in the research that backs up the prediction.  Not only that, but you can be referred to the specific studies that identified the gene.  Here are some of my results.

Needless to say I was consoled by these results.  Of course if my results showed that I was a carrier, I may have felt differently.  In my next post, I will discuss a few of their predictions for disease and how closely the results correlated with what I know about my health status.


  1. Kathy,
    Your daughter might point out that you are not a Mendelian Disease carrier on any of the genes that 23andMe tests, however you may still be a carrier for something which their test does not cover. There are some rare CF genes that 23andMe has not included in their analysis. This is one of the areas that has caused concern among her colleagues. I, personally, do not feel that the concerns are valid since no real harm has been demonstrated from DTC genetic test, only "imagined" scenarios. Still, it is good to know that your test came out "clean".

  2. Thank you so much for weighing in CeCe. I really want to understand this better.


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