Last Black Friday Amazon had a door crasher deal on genetic kits from 23 and Me. My husband and I thought it would be fun to do, so we ordered the kits. They arrived in record time in small little reusable boxes. November and December came and went and the kits sat on the kitchen island, getting shuffled around whenever we tidied up. I’m not sure why it took so long for us to actually send our DNA in. Maybe we were subconsciously sabotaging it, afraid for what might show up in the results. Or, maybe we were just busy. Whatever the case, they sat around for about 6 months before we finally got around to it.
The 23 and Me kit is really simple. You spit in a tube that is provided with the kit, register your kit number online, seal up the spit in the returnable box and drop it in the mail. We procrastinated on something that literally took 5 minutes. Once the lab received our samples we both were sent an email making us aware that they were beginning to process our samples. Throughout the process we were kept up to date via email and our individual and online accounts.
Just when I had forgotten about it, about 2 weeks after we sent the samples out, up popped an email notifying me that my results were in. It was kind of like opening a Christmas present…. You want to rip into it immediately, but you probably shouldn’t. I wasn’t alone when I saw the email, what if something bad was in it? Is this something one should open when they are alone? Do I need to brace myself for news that I have some type of yet to be diagnosed disorder that I’ve most certainly passed on to my child? Should I wait for my husband to open his?
Well, curiosity got the best of me and about 3 minutes after processing what to do I opened the email. I compromised with myself that I would read the ancestry information while in mixed company, but save the health results for later. I really didn’t expect to find out many surprises with my ancestry. I know most of my family tree and my grandparents (3 of who are still alive) have shared their history with me. The results were not surprising. What was surprising was that 23 and me pinpointed the exact area of the United Kingdom my one side of the family was from and the region of The Ukraine that they believe the other side originated. It also told me that I was more Eastern European than I originally believed. I always knew there was a lot of Ukrainian in these hips;)
A feature that you have the ability to opt into is connecting with other people who share similar genetic information with you. You are in control of how much detail you put out there. I opted in and was given a list of people, the list was long and started with the strongest matches. Surprise! I did not find a long lost sister that I didn’t know about. But, I really wasn’t expecting to find much. For someone who is adopted or doesn’t have their family history, this could be a much different story. Keep in mind that the 23 and Me database is limited to people who have registered through them.
Next up were the health reports. Hats off to 23 and Me for ensuring customers take a mandatory tutorial before releasing their information to them. They make it very clear that this is not a substitute for talking to a doctor, there is a margin of error and to tread lightly with the information- always seeking professional medical advice and sharing this with your doctor. Also, 23 and Me makes it clear that they do not test for every gene variant and there are limitations. One of these is the BRCA1/BRCA2 gene for detecting breast and ovarian cancer. I was particularly interested in this, but I learned that 23 and Me only tests for 3 genetic markers and they are most common in people of Jewish descent. So, basically useless for me and I wish I had known this before I sent the test in.
The health reports are pretty extensive and tell you if they discovered genetic components in your DNA that would give you an increased risk of developing certain diseases. After each disease there is section advising 23 and Me customers of lifestyle changes that lead to healthy living and decreasing chances of developing certain healthy issues.
The Bottom Line
- Quick processing time once we sent the samples in.
- Constant communication about what was happening to the sample once it arrived at the lab.
- Option to keep your sample at the lab or have it destroyed.
- Easy to read reports that are extensive and include fun information.
- Limited testing for certain genetic markers.
- There is a margin of error and this is not a substitute for working with a health professional. This is for entertainment purposes!
- People who are strict about sharing their personal information may feel very uncomfortable. Your DNA is not sent back to you, but you can request to have it destroyed.
Am I happy that I went ahead and did this? Yes! I’m a curious person by nature and felt that I understood the limitations of the tests. Perhaps if I uncovered something really undesirable I would think differently. Overall it was an interesting and entertaining experience. Have you tried something like this? I would love to hear about your experience!
Kim Ouellette is a Co-Founder of Alberta Mamas and an Edmonton Realtor with Schmidt Realty Group. She is a wife, mom, daughter, friend and adventure seeker who loves to explore Alberta and beyond. Connect with her at firstname.lastname@example.org