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The Price of Knowledge

Here’s what you get when you send in your saliva to three major firms in the mail-order genome market.

BY David Howard // Summer 2008
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A glimpse into your medical future sounds tantalizing, but it doesn’t come cheap—and might leave you with more questions than answers. Here’s what you get when you send in your saliva to three major firms in the mail-order genome market.

23ANDME

Cost: $999

SNPs Tested: More than 550,000

What You Get: An “odds calculator” for two dozen traits and conditions, including likelihood of contracting such illnesses as lupus and multiple sclerosis; information that dates to prehistory and pinpoints the geographic distribution of ancestors (which involves the full complement of some 550,000 SNPs).

The Caveat: 23andMe’s open letter to the medical community states: “What we do not and will not do is provide medical advice to our customers. Though our service delivers personalized data, the information it provides is tailored to genotypes, not to individuals.”


NAVIGENICS

Cost: $2,500 for first year; $250  annually thereafter

SNPs Tested: More than 1 million

What You Get: Analysis of predisposition for 18 common medical conditions; continual updates as new conditions are shown to have genetic links; consultations with certified genetic counselors who help interpret the results and suggest appropriate next steps (at no extra charge).

The Caveat: The site notes: “We only include conditions where you can take action after learning your results.”


deCODEme

Cost: $985

SNPs Tested: More than 1 million

What You Get: Assessments of genetic risk for 29 diseases and traits; report on deep ancestry, going back hundreds or thousands of generations; experts to help interpret results.

The Caveat: The site notes: “There are many other factors besides genetics that contribute to disease development of the complex diseases included in deCODEme’s information services.”

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Your Genome, Yourself

Personal genomic testing

Mail-order gene scans still aren’t very useful, proving yet again that a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing.

Your Genes Have Been Scanned. Now What?

New studies look at what consumers do—or don’t do—after a mail-order genome test.

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