A DNA testing kit that helps you understand your ethnicity, pinpoint medical risks and find distant relatives.
Bottom line: 23andMe boasts one of the most complete ancestry test systems on the market. It could be a viable option for those whose family lineage is unclear, and for those looking for answers on how to improve their health. But packages get pricier with the more information you seek, and results can be difficult to interpret.
23andMe boasts one of the most comprehensive health screening and genetic testing packages on the market. This DNA testing service can be helpful for people in pinpointing their risk for diseases like cancer and Alzheimer’s — particularly if you’re unclear about your family history.
But extensive analysis can lead to a lot of misinterpreted results — and the more info you want the more expensive it is — so check out various providers to help you decide on the best service and package for you.
What is 23andMe?
Launched in 2006, 23andMe is a US-based genetic testing company that was one of the earliest to offer DNA testing services online. Today, 23andMe ships its testing kits to more than 50 countries worldwide.
How does 23andMe work?
Similar to other DNA-tests, you can order a testing kit online directly from 23andMe for delivery to your home. Simply follow the instructions provided — you’ll need to either spit into a test tube or swab the inside of your cheek.
Once complete, ship your sample back to 23andMe in the same prepaid package. You can retrieve your results online within two to five weeks.
How much does 23andMe cost?
23andMe offers three different services at different prices:
- Ancestry + Traits Service: $99. The lowest-tier DNA kit that offers a detailed ancestry breakdown with 80+ personalized reports that can identify origin from 2000+ geographic areas.
- Health + Ancestry Service: $199. This kit includes an ancestry and traits service plus a health analysis to help you understand where to make lifestyle improvements that optimize your wellbeing. It includes 150+ FDA-authorized personal reports.
- VIP Health + Ancestry Service: $499. An all-inclusive DNA testing kit that offers priority lab processing for quicker results, and one year of support with a trained expert who will personally review and interpret your test results with you.
Shipping costs can range from $9.95 to $24.95 depending on the type of shipping and delivery you choose. Transaction fees may also apply.
What features come with 23andMe?
Here’s what you can expect with a 23andMe kit:
- Detailed testing and analysis. 23andMe meets the US Government’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA) criteria for scientific and clinical validity. Plus, it also claims to provide ancestry estimates that are accurate to the nearest 0.1%. To get such comprehensive results, 23andMe uses genotyping — a process of examining specific regions of your DNA for variations.
The $99 test uses this data to pinpoint your ethnic makeup and estimate your predisposition to specific traits — like whether you like cilantro, for example. The $199 kit offers additional information related to your medical history. 23andMe further offers health reports to warn you of genetic risks for select diseases like cancer and if you carry other genetic conditions like cystic fibrosis.
- Online reports. Your medical test reports and ancestry results will be available online on your 23andMe account. The best thing about these reports is that they’re accessible any time you want them.
- Security and privacy. 23andMe doesn’t share your genetic information with law enforcement, employers or health insurance companies without your explicit permission.
- Opportunities to reach out to distant relatives. Use 23andMe’s DNA Relatives tool to reach out and connect to other 23andMe members who could be related to you.
- Paid VIP service. VIP members get access to two DNA testing kits, a priority results service and one-to-one walkthrough of your ancestry results.
Pros and cons
A few key benefits and drawbacks that could help you make a decision if this is the best DNA testing kit for you:
- Simple process. The test is unintrusive. Only a cheek swab or small saliva sample is required to retrieve your ancestry and health information.
- Wide reach. The company draws results from an extensive database of over 10 million people across 2,000 regions.
- Detailed ancestry reports. They include a far-reaching breakdown of your ethnic makeup, possibly as far back as Neanderthal roots — 40,000 years ago or more.
- Service complaints. Reviews state customer support can be lacking.
- Results can be tricky to interpret. Such extensive analyses often requires genetic counseling, which only comes from the highest-tier package.
- Cost. The highest-tier service is pricey, especially when you factor in extra shipping costs.