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If you’ve decided to take the plunge into purchasing a home DNA test kit, you may be excited to hurry up and get the results back… but be stuck on what kind of test kit to purchase.
Whether you’re interested in learning more about your personal health, getting fascinating information about the genes that make you uniquely who you are, or diving into family tree research, it can be a bit overwhelming to decide which DNA test kit is the best for you.
What's in this Guide?
- What Is A DNA Test?
- What Types Of DNA Tests Are There? What Is The Difference Between DNA Testing Kits?
- Who Should Get An At-Home DNA Test? Which Home DNA Testing Kit Should I Get?
- What Are The Best DNA Kits For Testing At Home?
- How Accurate Are Home DNA Tests?
- How Much Does A Home DNA Testing Kit Cost?
Disclaimer: Before You Read
It is important to know that your genes are not your destiny. There are various environmental and genetic factors working together to shape you. No matter your genetic makeup, maintain ideal blood pressure and glucose levels, avoid harmful alcohol intake, exercise regularly, get regular sleep. And for goodness sake, don't smoke.
Genetics is a quickly changing topic. Read More...
You’ve probably heard the big names — AncestryDNA, 23andMe, Color, MayoClinic, Helix — but it can be hard to figure out what makes each test different, and what makes each test the right or wrong choice for you.
And while the cost of at-home DNA test kits is relatively affordable (often ranging from $50 to $150), you may not just want to type in your credit card number and hit “purchase” without knowing exactly if the test you’re about to purchase is the one you need.
And, if you’re already on the fence about taking a DNA test, making the informed choice that gives you all the information you’re searching for can reduce a lot of stress and anxiety related to sending off your DNA sample through the mail and waiting up to two months for results.
If you’re trying to figure out what the best home DNA test kits are, but are feeling overwhelmed by all the research and comparisons, keep reading on. We’ll help you narrow down the home DNA test kit candidates to find the best option for you.
What Is A DNA Test?
OK — you’ve probably heard about DNA tests. And you probably know that they’re commonly used on late-morning television shows to dramatically prove paternity or by police investigative units to catch criminals.
So why does it seem like everyone’s excited to send off their blood or saliva to a random lab?
DNA testing, in the most basic of explanations, is a kind of medical tool that helps you examine your unique, personal genetic code — the genes that impact everything about who you are, from the color of your hair, to how tall you are, to the kind of earwax you have, to whether or not you may have an elevated risk for developing health conditions such as cancer 1.
These tests may also claim to tell you information about yourself that can help you better understand how your body works, such as how your body likely responds to caffeine, how certain kinds of exercise may work best (or least) for your physique, or if you may have difficulty sleeping due to an inherited sleep condition 2.
So, while what most people understand about DNA testing comes from the dramas of television programming, you should know that DNA has so many far-reaching uses for everyday people, and now that at-home DNA test kits are becoming popular, it’s easier than ever before to utilize DNA testing to potentially benefit you.
When it comes to taking a DNA test, you should know they’re virtually painless. At-home DNA test kits usually only require a sample of your saliva to extract your DNA.
That means it’s as easy to spit into a collection tube and mail off the sample without the worry of needles or blood.
After mailing off your DNA sample to a lab, regardless of what kind of test you choose or what company, the analysis of your DNA will begin.
Test laboratories use computers to digitize the strands of your DNA collected from your saliva, and use algorithms to pick out patterns in specific portions of your genetic makeup.
From these patterns, genetic scientists are able to determine certain things about you, and share that information with you in their results report.
What Types Of DNA Tests Are There? What Is The Difference Between DNA Testing Kits?
If you’re interested in taking a DNA test but aren’t sure what kind to pick, don’t worry — many people get stuck on this decision.
Before just purchasing any test, you should know that there are several kinds of DNA tests that can offer up different information: ancestry DNA tests, wellness tests, health risk tests, and paternity tests are the most popular types of at-home DNA test kits.
Ancestry DNA Tests: These DNA tests can help you find out more about yourself and your family. By examining portions of your DNA that are passed down from your parents, these tests can show how you are potentially related to various ethnic groups, as well as other people who have submitted DNA tests.
Ancestry DNA tests may also provide information about how your family may have migrated to where they are today and are often used by adoptees to help find their birth families 3. These tests are a top choice for people who want to use the information to compile their family trees and are often provided by companies that also offer genealogy research resources.
Common ancestry DNA test brands include the aptly named AncestryDNA, FamilyTreeDNA, and My Heritage DNA.
Wellness Tests: If you’ve ever wondered why you just can’t sleep at night, or why lactose bothers you, or why you have a hard time losing weight, a wellness DNA test may be what you are interested in.
These tests claim to explain how your DNA impacts your everyday life, and often the results of these tests claim to offer information on how to cater to your body’s genetic code.
These tests are becoming popular among those interested in athletics and wellness as a tool to help their physical growth 4. Common wellness DNA tests brands include 23andMe, Helix DNA, Mayo Clinic, and Sema4.
Tests For Health Risk Assessment: Many people are seeking out DNA tests that can clue them into potential health risks.
Cancer is a common fear among many people, and some testing companies, such as 23andMe offer tests that look for a limited number of gene mutations related to breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and other cancers related to the BRCA gene mutation 5.
Further, some DNA tests can tell you if you’re a carrier of certain health conditions, such as Cystic fibrosis, Sickle cell anemia, hereditary hearing loss, and more.
Some common risk-assessment DNA test brands include 23andMe, Mayo Clinic, Helix DNA, and Color.
Paternity Tests: If you’re unsure about the paternity of your child, but are concerned about privacy, at home paternity test kits are a strong option.
There no leading lab companies that offer these tests, but a variety of inexpensive tests are often easily purchased at drug stores.
Who Should Get An At-Home DNA Test? Which Home DNA Testing Kit Should I Get?
Anyone can get a DNA test — it all just depends on the information they want to learn about themselves.
If you’re unsure what at-home DNA test is best for you, consider asking yourself what you what to know, and how you may use that information.
Ancestry DNA tests
This kind of testing may work best for you if:
- You’re interested in your family’s history, but don’t know where to start.
- You want to learn more about your family’s history by connecting with long-lost relatives.
- You’re unsure of where your family came from, or suspect that family stories that have been passed along may not be accurate.
- You’re adopted and want to take a chance at finding long-lost relatives, or at least more about yourself (with the choice not to find family members).
This kind of testing may be of interest if:
- You have difficulty sleeping, losing weight, gaining weight, or with another kind of wellness issue, and wonder if it’s related to your genetics.
- You are interested in living a healthier lifestyle and want to consider how your genetics may play a part.
- You are adopted or don’t know your family’s health history, and want to learn more to help yourself make healthier, more informed decisions.
- You’re simply interested in learning more about how your body works, and how you can treat it well.
Tests For Health Risk Assessment
This kind of testing may be of interest to you if:
- You want to know your risk of developing a health condition such as breast cancer.
- You have a family history of a certain health condition and are wondering if it's genetic.
- You are concerned about passing on genetic mutations for certain health conditions to your children.
- You are adopted or don’t know your family’s health history, and want to screen your DNA for potential health issues that could arise in the future.
However, if you have a personal or family history of a certain health condition or you are concerned about passing on genetic mutations for certain health conditions to your children, you should discuss genetic testing with your doctor or genetic counselor.
It is important to realize that at-home DNA tests may not be as thorough as a clinical test and may provide false reassurance.
This kind of testing may work best for you if:
- You are unsure that you are the father of your child.
- You are unsure who the father of your child might be.
- You would like to confirm paternity, but have no reason to use a court-admissible DNA test.
Figuring out just what you want to learn from an at-home DNA test can help you determine just what kind of test you need.
From there, you can move forward with selecting the right testing company for your needs and budget.
What Are The Best DNA Kits For Testing At Home?
If you’re trying to figure out the best kit to purchase and use at home, consider these top options based on the type of kit you want to purchase.
Ancestry DNA Tests: AncestryDNA is a leader in the genealogy and family research DNA test kit field. These tests are easy to use and return results within eight to 10 weeks.
Plus, they’re relatively inexpensive, with sale prices sometimes hitting around the $50 mark, and regular price around $100.
AncestryDNA’s test is rated as a smart purchase because of its extensive database — the more people in the DNA matching bank, the better for people who are interested in locating lost family members.
Because AncestryDNA offers genealogy resources and shows how to use DNA results alongside its wealth of research materials, it’s an industry leader for ancestry DNA testing.
Wellness Tests: There are countless wellness-related DNA tests, but some top brands that stand out include Helix DNA’s Discovery Kit, Vitagene, and 23and Me’s Health + Ancestry DNA test.
Helix’s wellness test is affordable at $80 and gives you information on your genetic interactions with sleep, vitamins and minerals, gluten tolerance, sleep, and exercise-related topics.
In addition, it does offer some basic information. Vitagene’s DNA tests are around $100, and claims to use your genetic makeup to help build customized nutritional plans that help you feed your body based on your genes.
Further, 23andMe’s Health + Ancestry DNA tests claims to offer wellness information, with five specific reports focused on sleep, food intolerances, and weight-related genetics to help you feel your best; the test costs $199.
However, it is important to remember that this information is not conclusive and may not be accurate or helpful. These tests are mostly to be used for entertainment purposes and should not be used to make medical decisions.
Tests For Health Risk Assessment: 23andMe’s Health + Ancestry DNA test is the first (and only) FDA-approved test for BRCA genes (mutations linked to breast cancer development), and its tests explore your genetic makeup for selected mutations for more than 40 inherited health conditions.
It also combines wellness information for your genetic makeup and offers information on ancestry as well. 23andMe’s Health + Ancestry DNA test is $199.
Color, another health risk assessment test, is also a top contender. This DNA test, ranging between $199 and $249, tests for a variety of health conditions — both inherited and based on your specific genetic makeup — to let you know your risk level.
Color also can explain how your body may interact with certain medications before you ever need to use them.
How Accurate Are Home DNA Tests?
DNA tests were once just only obtainable at your doctor’s office or from a local laboratory.
But now, at-home DNA tests make the process more affordable and more accessible. But does this mean that the results won’t be as reliable? In some ways, yes.
When it comes to ancestry DNA, there’s more wiggle room for accuracy. Many people wonder just how accurate these tests can be, especially when it comes to determining potential relatives and ethnicity.
If your test results reveal that you belong to a particular ethnic group, know that it’s OK if the results do not match up to your recorded family history.
Because DNA test companies use different databases and algorithms to determine where your family came from, and what parts of human DNA belong to certain ethnic groups, there can be drastic differences between the results of two different test kits taken by the same person.
Additionally, it is important to remember that your DNA is made up of half of your mother’s DNA and half of your father’s DNA, so unexpected results could be based on the possibility that you simply didn’t inherited DNA from certain ancestors.
You should know that if you’re looking for a DNA test to tell you your ethnic background, that these results likely aren’t spot on — though this information can be a useful tool in aiding your family tree research.
When it comes to determining family relationships based on DNA, you should know that this form of genetic testing is likely accurate.
As for DNA test kits that help you find lost or unknown family members, know that these results are also likely very accurate.
That’s because when it comes to using DNA to test for unknown parents or siblings, or for family tree reasons, the science of DNA has little wiggle room.
Close family members share higher amounts of DNA, while the amount of DNA shared between distant relatives quickly dips. As mentioned above, parents and children, as well as siblings, share about 50 percent of their DNA.
But in the case of grandparents and grandchildren, that number drops to about 25 percent.
More distant relatives, such as extended cousins, great aunts, and great uncles, sink to about 6 percent or lower. This means that it’s hard for someone who doesn’t share your DNA to be matched up as a potential relative.
When discussing the reliability of tests related to health risk assessment, not all genetic tests are created equal.
There are different types of at-home DNA tests for health risks: those that typically do not involve health-care provider engagement and those that involve a health-care provider 6.
Those that involve a health-care provider may offer a third-party service of genetic counselors and doctors to you, or they may require your personal physician or genetic counselor to order the test.
If you or your family members are concerned about a health condition in your family, it is important to discuss this with a genetics professional.
At-home DNA testing might not be the best choice for you, especially if there is no health-care provider involvement.
Additionally, there may be other important issues that should be discussed as part of the testing. Genetic testing is one of many pieces in discussing risk assessment.
How Much Does A Home DNA Testing Kit Cost?
When it comes to paying for your DNA test, you should know that there are two main groups of testing: medically necessary, and non-medically necessary. These two categories are exactly how they sound:
Medically necessary DNA tests are ordered by your doctor as a tool to help rule out or verify illnesses that could negatively impact your health or the health of future children.
These DNA tests are typically chosen based on your personal and family medical history.
They are typically quite comprehensive, if chosen appropriately, and have the potential to give you and your doctor more information about your personal health, as well as ideas on the kinds of medical treatments you can pursue.
DNA tests ordered by your doctor may be more costly than an at-home medical DNA test, and in some cases, help with the cost can be covered by your insurance provider if you meet certain eligibility requirements.
On average, these in-office DNA tests usually cost anywhere from $300 to $5,000.
If that sounds like a lot to pay out of pocket, it may be the reason that you’re considering a non-medical at-home DNA test.
These tests are considered non-medically necessary by insurance companies, meaning they won’t provide coverage for them.
These non-medical at-home DNA tests are typically not to be used for medical decisions. Many of the non-medical traits tested for are affected by other factors in addition to the variants tested on the at-home DNA test.
Typically if you have a family history or personal history that is concerning for a genetic condition, it is advised that you speak with a genetic counselor or a doctor.
Additionally, if you are considering carrier screening to determine risks to future or current pregnancies, you should speak with a genetic counselor or doctor.
Some at-home DNA tests are linked with access and approval by doctors and genetic counselors of third party providers.
Additionally, when it comes to health information, it may be helpful to discuss the risks, benefits, and limitations of the testing with a healthcare provider prior to pursuing the testing.
For instance, there may be certain psychological factors and insurance discriminations that may be helpful to discuss prior to pursuing the testing.
The cost of at-home DNA test kits may be less than what you would pay for a test from a doctor’s office.
The cost of a home DNA test is often dependent upon what you’re testing for and the company you choose to purchase it from. You can expect prices to generally range between:
- $100 to $200 for a home paternity test, which includes the test kit and lab processing fees (which are often paid upon submitting the DNA sample). These tests are often purchased online or at a drug store for around $25 to $20, with additional lab processing fees paid at the time you submit a DNA sample).
- $50 to $100 for an ancestry DNA test, which includes the cost of the kit and lab processing. In some cases, additional add-on testing packages for more specific kinds of ancestry DNA (such as Y-DNA or mtDNA) are often available.
- $100 to $300 for a wellness and health risk test provided by companies such as 23andMe, MayoClinic, and HelixDNA. These tests screen for a variety of health factors, such as selected variants for cancer and inherited condition risk, your body’s response to food and environment, and other DNA information. Additional add-on test packages may also be available.
Many DNA test companies that sell at-home kits often run specials and sales around holidays and at certain times of year.
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