Genetic testing at home: Is it worth the price?

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23andMe at-home genetic testing kit
Image Credit: 23andMe.com
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For years, the ability to identify genetic health risks for common diseases and to discover your ancestral roots was out of the price range of most people. But that has changed in recent times.

Read more: Diet sodas may be more harmful than you realize, study finds

Clark tries out 23andMe genetic testing

Back in the early 2000s, 23andMe.com launched with the promise that you could learn about your ancestry and get a predictive disease report from an at-home testing kit. But the initial price point was around $1,000.

Today, the starting price point is $99! The price just keeps going lower and lower as more competitors enter the field.

For $99, 23andMe — so named after the 23 pairs of chromosomes that each cell in your body has — allows you to provide a saliva sample at home that you send off in postage-paid package for lab analysis.

What you get back is a breakdown of your global ancestry by percentages. You even have the ability to opt-in to connect via direct message with people who share DNA with you!

That’s the entry level package, and it’s on sale right now for $79.

If you want more granular analysis, there’s a $199 package that offers your ancestry plus a whole host of genetic testing options. (Editor’s note: This package is currently on sale for $179 through May 14 as part of a Mother’s Day promotion.)

For example, you can get reports about your genetic health risk of developing hereditary Thrombophilia, late-onset Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease. You can also learn if you’re a carrier of the genes for Cystic Fibrosis, Sickle Cell Anemia and hereditary hearing loss, among other diseases.

And all those genetic tests now meet FDA testing requirements, according to 23andMe.

Hear Clark talk about the results of his 23andMe genetic test on the Clark Howard Show Podcast

The $199 package also includes five personalized wellness reports — on your sleep, your level of lactose intolerance and your genetic weight, among other things.

With prices this low, the question then becomes…should you spend your hard-earned money on at-home genetic testing?

In theory, genetic testing at home is supposed to help people. The idea is that disease management will be greatly improved when medical providers can offer guidelines for patients who know they’re genetically predisposed to certain diseases.

But there’s always the danger that if someone gets a report indicating susceptibility to certain genetic illnesses, they’ll go into full freak-out mode.

So if you’re the kind of person who would worry yourself sick about a bad genetic report, then you may want to stay away from these kinds of tests — even if you are tempted by the increasingly low price point.

Read more: Best way to control your weight? Hint: It’s not just diet or exercise!

Clark talks health care and medical billing

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Theo Thimou About the author:
Theo is director of content for clark.com. He has co-written 2 books with Clark Howard, including the #1 New York Times bestseller Clark Howard's Living Large in Lean Times.
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