Have you thought about getting 23andMe genetic testing done? I recently did a 23andMe test and had a lot of fun with the results. However, I was surprised by the amount of information that a genetics test includes on health risks and carrier status (I’ll define this below). It sure has evolved from just a fun way to find out about your ancestry. Going through this process has made me curious: How do you feel about knowing your risks? If your DNA genetic testing showed a higher risk for certain health conditions would you change your life including altering your plans to have children if you were a carrier? Would your results potentially take away some of your life enjoyment?
I think it is wise to think about how you will handle results BEFORE you get this genetics test. Based upon what you decide, you can choose to only include the “fun” parts of the 23andMe genetic testing and not see your health risks. Or if you are someone that would be motivated by the results than get the whole test.
DNA genetic testing: What diseases or conditions are tested for?
A genetics test calculates risk by making an association between a person’s individual genetics and a health condition known to be associated with certain genes.
Currently, 23andMe genetic testing looks for the presence of genes associated with risk for late-onset Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s Disease, Macular Degeneration, breast and ovarian cancer, Celiac Disease, Thrombocytopenia, and several more.
A 23andMe test reports if you are a carrier for 43 different conditions (this number may change as they add more). Being a carrier means a person typically does not have the genetic condition but could pass down the gene to their child. Because these are recessive health conditions (usually) a child will need 2 copies of the gene to get the condition.
If both parents are carriers for the same condition then the child has a higher risk of inheriting it. Using basic genetics the risk is 25% the child will not get any copy, 50% that they get one copy (they would become a carrier too), and 25% they get both the copies and have the condition.
2 Examples of health risks tested for in a 23andMe test:
DNA genetic testing: The risk of late-onset Alzheimer’s disease
This genetics test measures if you have the ApoE4 allele which is a marker for increased risk of late-onset Alzheimer’s disease. If you have one allele, you have between 20-30% chance of having Alzheimer’s by age 85 (women are higher risk at 27-30% and men are 20-23% according to the 23andMe website). With one copy there is ~5-7% chance by age 70. If you have 2 copies of ApoE4 alleles your risk increases to 50-60% by age 85.
Think about your personality for a moment. If you knew that you were at higher risk would you worry more? Would you begin to fret every time you misplaced your keys and feel depressed? Or would you recognize that you are at higher risk and make lifestyle changes proactively to minimize all the factors you could control?
BRCA1 and 2: Significant limitations to this genetics test!
The 23andMe test checks 3 variants of the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes (associated with increased risk of cancer; specifically breast and ovarian cancer). The problem is, there are 1000 different variants in BRCA1 and 2 and these 3 variants are only in the Ashkenazi Jewish population. Don’t get too excited if you come back negative!
In addition, most cases of breast and ovarian cancer are not caused by inherited variants. This means a woman without a variant is still at risk for developing these cancers. Remember: women’s breast cancer risk is 1 in 8 and ovarian is 1 in 30.
It would be a mistake if someone interpreted a negative test to mean they could decrease breast self-exam or mammograms.
Your medical history:
Keeping track of your medical history (including diagnoses and medications) is important for your overall health and ability to advocate for yourself. Yes, it is good to know what your risk of various diseases is, but it’s essential to understand your current health status in order to take charge of managing your ongoing well-being.
Download this free medical history form so you can make sure you understand your history and keep track of it all in one place.
Get my health history form:
The “fun part” of a 23andMe test: Traits, ancestry, and wellness
These sections were fun to read and seemed accurately reflective. I didn’t have a lot of surprises except for the fact that I have a higher than average Neanderthal ancestry. I’m not sure what that means but it sounds kinda cool and I think my kids will be impressed.
A few of the fun things that the genetics test shows:
- are you likely to smell asparagus odor,
- have an aversion to cilantro?
- be afraid of heights,
- more likely to be bitten by mosquitos than others?
- Is your hair likely to bleach in the sun?
- Are you less likely to be a deep sleeper,
- unlikely to flush from alcohol,
- likely to consume more coffee than others?
- Are you less likely to experience misophonia ((be bothered by the sound of people chewing)?
Based upon your personality would you get a genetics test?
Would you want to know what you are at higher risk for? How would you feel getting those results? Would you alter the plans for your life based upon your results? Are you curious? Would you do it?
Remember that you can still get the traits and ancestry part of the report without seeing the health risks.
Let me know your thoughts on testing!
- Have you done it?
- Did you decide not to for a particular reason?
- If you did it, what did you think?
- For my physician friends, have the results from home genetic testing ever changed how you treat someone? What concerns do you have based upon what you have seen?
Purchase a 23andMe test:
If you are interested in getting a 23andMe test below is an affiliate link. I will get a small commission (at no increased cost to you). Any commission contributes to the cost of running this website. Thank you!
Want to follow-up with your doctor to discuss results? Read these blogs for tips on how to get your questions answered!
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