I submitted a sample to 23andMe, paid $99.00 and waited for about two months. The results are in. Here’s what I found out:
My genome is boring.
Yep, that’s right. Boring. Hurray! Boring isn’t bad in a genome- genome drama is usually associated with challenging physical and mental syndromes. This test doesn’t pick up large gene events that result in birth defects, but it does pick up small gene changes that demonstrate increased risk for diseases such as cancer.
But I thought there would be something…well…..interesting. The biggest risk I have is a 20% increased risk of gallstones.
I know nothing about gallstones so I did what every “high risk” American patient does- I called Dr. Google. Here’s what I found:
What causes gallstones? Experts are not completely sure why some people develop a chemical imbalance in their gallbladder which causes gallstones, while others do not. However, we do know that gallstones are more common among:
Overweight/obese people, especially women. A study revealed that a bulging midriff almost doubles a woman’s chances of developing gallstones and the need for surgery to remove them. (I’m not too fat…yet) Women who have been pregnant (not me) People who have recently lost lots of weight. (not me either) Women taking oral contraceptives. (nope) Women undergoing high-dose estrogen therapy (nope) People with a close relative who has had gallstones. (nope) People whose intake of dietary fat is high. (does chocolate count?) People over 60 years of age. (nope) Native American Indians. (nope) People who take statins (cholesterol-lowering drugs). (nope) People with diabetes. (nope) Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) for women during the menopause. (nope)
A study revealed that a gene variant significantly increases the risk of developing gallstones . (significantly! High drama!)
Twice as many women get gallstones than men. (Yea, but I’ve always been a bit of a tomboy, and I’m told I’m “intimidating”)
So there you have it- looks like all of my risk is coming from my genes and from being a woman.
Next up was an increased risk for Psoriasis. Well, that’s no surprise because I actually do have Psoriasis, a very mild case. Oddly enough, it went away for my thirties. Perhaps it will go away again for my sixties, just in time for me to develop gallstones.
All the other increased and decreased risks were very minimal. To be honest I thought, with my family history, that there would be some increased risk in the mental illness category, but everything came through “typical.” This doesn’t mean immunity, everyone is at risk for mental illness, but some people have a higher genetic load. I read through the studies for the genes they test for, and I don’t think they cover enough ground to really give you an idea of your mental illness genetic load. It’s a start, but I wouldn’t make any serious decisions based on this information.
In other news, I’m not a carrier for anything they test for, which doesn’t really matter as I don’t have kids and don’t plan to, I have a slight sensitivity to Warfarin, and I most likely have blue eyes (I do).
Here’s what I like about the 23andMe genetic test experience:
1) It’s affordable. Clinical genetic testing is expensive ($2000 for minimal breast and ovarian gene testing if no family history). This is not a clinical test, although it is run in a CLIA approved lab- which meets some quality standards. It’s the cheap way for the layman to take a look at his or her own genome. To me, that’s a fun time.
2) It covers a lot of ground. I think it’s pretty cool that they give you drug resistance, carrier testing and disease risk, and some fun trait stuff. Plus some ancestry information. There’s something for everyone.
Here’s what I don’t like about the 23andMe genetic test experience:
1) It covers a lot of ground (yeah I know, it’s a ying/yang thing). They don’t just present a list, probably because the FDA slapped them around for not providing counseling. There are lots of disclaimers and check boxes to make sure you understand that if you have a positive result for something serious, you need to talk to a genetic counselor about it, blah de blah. That’s good, but it just takes a while to get through. That’s why people actually see a genetic counselor to help them with info that can be scary and confusing.
2) They have info on malaria and HIV resistance. There is no way I would tell someone that they were less susceptible than another person to malaria or HIV. Even though there’s proof that these reports don’t change behavior, I would not put it past someone who’s had a few cocktails to believe they are invincible. I read the (long) explanation of the resistance and it does mention there’s another strain that is not protected by this mutation. And HIV has an extremely fast mutation rate, so who knows when it could change.
Whew….I’m glad I just have a gallbladder to contend with for now.
Image courtesy of [dream designs] / FreeDigitalPhotos.net