Thursday, February 24, 2011

23 and Me- Results

I know I should be posting pictures from our vacation, but I got my 23 and Me results in yesterday and I wanted to share how the end of the process works, since I've already written about getting the test as a gift and the process of sending off my DNA to be analyzed. All together it took about 6 weeks to get my results back. They e-mail you with a notification that your profile is ready, and then you go to their website and log-in with a user name and password.

The website is very user friendly, and your results are laid out in your profile. There is an extensive menu that runs down the left side of the screen, with various categories- My Health, My Ancestry, Sharing and Community, and 23 and We. Each of those categories has subcategories. For example, underneath "My Health", are sub categories for disease risk, carrier status, drug response, traits, and health labs. I found the "My Health" sub-categories to be the most interesting, because, of course, they were the most pertinent to my personal health. When you clicked on "disease risk" the screen populates with a full page of information. The first section lists the diseases for which you have an increased risk, the second section is populated with the diseases for which you have an average risk, the third section is populated with the diseases for which you have a lower than average risk. In this sub-category, my Parkinson's risk was locked. I had to unlock it to see the results, since that is deemed a sensitive and potentially worrisome thing to find out, and they give people the option of choosing to know or not. I have average risk, all good there! And as someone who has had a mole removed which came back abnormal, I also was happy to see that I have a substantially decreased risk for melanoma than the average population. That plus avoiding the sun since I was 15 plus my love affair with sunscreen bodes well, abnormal moles be damned. I had another mole removed just yesterday at the derm's office, and instead of worrying like a crazy person, that little category on 23 and Me is making me feel a lot better.

The "carrier status" sub category of "My Health" gave you info on what genes you are carrying for certain diseases. In this sub category there was also a locked section that I had to choose to unlock- this told me whether or not I carried the BRCA mutation, which is responsible for an increased risk of breast cancer and ovarian cancer. I chose to unlock it, and I don't carry the mutation (from my "disease risk" section I found out I have a much lower risk of breast cancer than average as well, so I wasn't expecting to have the mutation). It's fascinating to me to look through the "drug response" section and see how they can predict how I will react to drugs, just based on my genes. They include caffeine in this section, and I learned I was a slow metabolizer (meaning caffeine affects me strongly) which doesn't surprise me since it makes me crazy jittery. The "traits" section got as specific as talking about the way my taste buds work, and that my hair is curly, and my eyes are green. The "My Health" category alone would have been worth the profiling, just due to all the fascinating info you get from the sub categories.

But then you get the fun of digging through the "My Ancestry" category, which was also neat. I'm 100% European ancestry, overwhelmingly Northern European. They have various maps to show the ancestral progression of your ancestors, and how different genes are linked into different groups. This was interesting to me because I read the fabulous book, "The 7 Daughters of Eve" and it was rad to see the science behind our human gene groups.

I know I said I wouldn't share anything negative, but honestly my genes overall are pretty good. There is even a profile for longevity, and apparently I have a higher than average chance of living to be 100. In fact, there was only one area where I had a higher than average risk of disease, but it was substantially higher. My risk of getting DVT (deep vein thrombosis) is more than 3 times the average risk. In addition to that, under "drug response" it specifically said that I was substantially more likely to have DVT as a result of taking birth control. Back to the disease risk section, that section also mentioned that my 3X greater risk for getting DVT was even greater if I took birth control pills. I was surprised to read that, but it was very helpful information. Lately I've been going back and forth on whether I should take BC for my acne or take another medication, and I mentioned to Bobby that I wished there was a way for me to objectively evaluate which would be better for me to do, healthwise. As a result of this screening, I'm much more likely to take another medication over the BC pills (which I haven't been on for a few months anyway).

One other helpful tool on the website is that every single disease, drug, and carrier gene listed is a hyperlink, which takes you to a full page of information about the disease, and how lifestyle changes can lower risk. And, at the bottom of every page, they are sure to stress that genes are not destiny- you could have a carrier gene and never get the disease, you could get a disease with zero risk factors, etc. So much is in your own hands when it comes to your personal health, and I really like how 23 and Me stresses that. The other categories give you the ability to compare genes with other people (only if they invite you and you accept, or vice versa, random people do NOT have access to your info!) and Bobby and I had fun comparing our profiles. The "23 and We" section is basically a ton of quizzes that you take, which, combined with your genetic profile, helps researchers compile huge databases of lifestyle factors in conjunction with genetic risk. Overall I'm very happy to have my profile done, and I would recommend it if you're a science geek like myself. The full screening frequently goes on sale for a fraction of the normal price, so if you want to get it done you might want to check in periodically and wait for the inevitable sale.

Feel free to ask any questions if you want more info!


  1. Hi there...
    I stumbled on your blog some months ago (you know, link to link to link) and added it to my blogroll. I was at the bookstore a week or so ago and started talking to a woman who had just received her profile.

    I don't know what company she used, but she showed me the ancestrial page printout that listed her ancestrial "ingredients" and their percentages. She shared some really neat things that she'd already found online, but was actually looking for a book on Romania which was a significant percentage (although she looked more Swedish than anything, but it was WAAAAY down the list).

    I think she was mostly excited that I knew what she was talking about. I'll have to watch out for the budget friendly sale!

  2. That's really interesting. I listened to a NPR show on race once and it had a man who had grown up African-American, but when he got his DNA tested, found that he had no African genetic history at all. Crazy.

  3. This sounds so cool! I've heard about it before, but haven't been willing to pay for it. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the site!

  4. Jackie- someone else also mentioned that NPR show to me a while back. I love RadioLab and TAL, I need to search around their website and see if I can find the show you're talking about.

    Megan- you're welcome! I was super impressed with how orderly all of the information is. They really do an excellent job of arranging so much info into a manageable format.