23andMe vs. Ancestry.com vs. deCODEme: DNA Testing Services Reviewed
The key differences between the three companies:
- Ancestry.com focuses on what your genes say about your family history.
- deCODEme look at what effects your genes might have on your health.
- 23andMe combine the two to provide you with a mixture of ancestry information and health information.
Further detail on what you get from each company is provided below in an overview of each brands DNA testing service.
deCODEme offers DNA testing that looks at how your genes affect your health. This includes assessing your risk for 47 diseases and conditions. The idea being that if you know you are genetically prone to certain things you can make prior lifestyle changes or develop a preventative plan with your physician.
The following video gives a concise explanation on how their service works and what the benefits are:
Some of the key diseases and conditions they check for include:
- Age Related Macular Degeneration
- Alzheimer’s Disease
- Basal Cell Carcinoma
- Bladder Cancer
- Brain Aneurysm
- Brain Cancer-Glioma
- Breast Cancer
- Celiac Disease
- Chronic Kidney Disease
- Heart Attack
- Lung Cancer
- Male Pattern Baldness
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Ovarian Cancer
- Pancreatic Cancer
- Prostate Cancer
- Testicular Cancer
- Thyroid Cancer
- Type 1 Diabetes, Type 2 Diabetes
What they provide you with:
deCODEme provides you with a health report of your results. This includes:
- Your risk assessment for each individual disease or condition. See the screen shot of an example risk assessment report below.
- A background information report on the disease or condition.
- Risk and prevention information for the disease and condition.
- The ability to discuss your results with one of their experts in an online discussion panel format, or by phone or email.
They no longer provide any detailed ancestry tracing, because they believe some of these results are more speculative than factual.
Ancestry.com tests your DNA to help give you a clearer picture of where you come from. You can either request a DNA test alone, or can combine it with access to their ancestry records to put it into greater perspective.
What they provide you with (DNA testing):
- DNA results on genetic ethnicity-this includes a full breakdown of what races your genes come from and where your relations where from. See the example chart below.
Additional things you get with a records access package:
- Access to records on births, marriages, death, military and census reports. They have around 10 billion records online.
- The ability to create and share your family tree online.
- A list of possible DNA matches with other members on their database and the ability to contact them and share photos and information if they accept your contact. See the image below of a screen shot of a sample DNA match list.
- Updates as new DNA matches sign up.
Here’s what a member has to say “AncestryDNA connected me to a 2nd cousin I never knew. And through our family trees we were able to see how we were related. A cousin once lost to time and distance is now reunited through the use of DNA”. Arlene O. Irvine, CA.
As mentioned 23andMe provides you with a mix of ancestry and health related information based on your DNA results.
What they provide on your ancestry:
- A relative finder tool linked to a DNA database that is the world’s biggest when it comes to genealogy with over 150,000 members. The screen shot from 23andMe, shown below, is an example of the kind of results the database returns.
- Find out your ancestry composition between African, Asian and European. As shown in the sample chart below.
- They can trace family lineage back 10,000 years allowing you to determine whether you have any ancestors that are famous. 23andMe was shown on the show "Finding your roots” where they looked into celebrities origins.
- They provide maternal and paternal lineage (paternal lineage is only available for men)
- They provide your Neanderthal percentage versus modern day human. See the diagram below showing this.
- They allow you to import or create a family tree online.
What your Health report includes:
- They assess your genetic risk of 40+ inheritable conditions such as Diabetes, Breast Cancer and cystic fibrosis.
- They assess your carrier status of inheritable disease markers to see if you are at risk of passing these genes onto your children.
- They assess your potential sensitivity to medications to help determine whether you might need more or less of a drug, or are likely to suffer from adverse reactions. For example, some genes are believed to increase the chances of suffering from muscle pain and weakness if you take a high dose of a cholesterol lowing statin.
- An ongoing subscription service provides medical updates as they discover new medical information.
Testing standards and accuracy compared
deCODEme appears to have the highest testing standards and accuracy. 23andMe uses quite similar technology in their testing, but doesn’t appear to have the same level of experience in testing as deCODEme.
Ancestry.com appears to use good testing practices as far as ancestry goes, but these are not as involved as the medical testing. These differences look to have quite a bearing on price, as you will see in the price category further down. Let's take a look at each brands testing practices in further detail:
- Testing takes place in a CLIA certified laboratory. (CLIA labs are regulated by the centers for Medicare and Medicaid services).
- They use the latest Illumina BeadChip technology to complete your scan.
- Cancer and Cardio scans are undertaken with centaurus assay technology.
- deCODEme offers an unrivalled history in gene discovery. They have uncovered inherited risk factors for conditions like breast cancer, prostate cancer and many other conditions.
- They offer one of the largest DNA labs in the world offering greater accuracy.
- No other company has a larger genealogical database, or has analyzed data from as many people. They have analyzed data from more than 300,000 people worldwide.
- Results are vetted by experts and backed up by publications in peer reviewed internationally renowned scientific journals.
- They require associations between genetic variants and diseases to be truly statistically significant. Any genetic associations need to be replicated by at least two independent studies.
- Your health profile is the complete SNP information of pre-defined positions on your genome, not the complete sequence of the genome.*
*Sequencing determines the exact sequence of a certain length of DNA, but it is incredibly time consuming and expensive. For example, with the Human Genome project it took ten years and many technicians to sequence a few people.
- Testing takes place in a CLIA certified laboratory.
- Genotyping testing not sequencing.
- They use Illumina OmniExpress Plus Genotyping BeachChip technology.
- They use the latest DNA autosomal testing. This enables one test to cover both maternal and paternal sides, therefore making the test applicable for both men and women. Some other ancestry DNA tests only assess paternity for men, not women.
There is some contention about the accuracy of the kinds of DNA tests discussed in this report. deCODEme contests that ancestry tracing in the form of geographical locations is often more speculative than factual. You might like to read the article Geneticists sound note of caution over DNA ancestry testing for the pros and cons.
- 23andMe offers two services. Their Ancestry Service for $79.20 and their Health + Ancestry Service for $159.20.
- A flat rate of $1,100
Pricing is tiered based on what package you want:
- Ancestry DNA test only $99
- U.S. Discovery: Access all U.S. records on Ancestry for $19.99 per month
- Access to worldwide ancestry records $34.99 per month
- All Access for $44.99
All plans have a good savings if you sign up for 6 months.
How quickly do you get your results?
- 2-3 weeks after they receive your sample.
- 2-4 weeks after they receive your sample.
- 6-8 weeks after they receive your sample.
Customer service compared
As you will see below deCODEme offers the most ways to contact them, followed by Ancestry.com.
23andMe only appears to offer a basic email contact option at this point.
deCODE me allows you to get further clarity on your results through their expert services. You can contact them in the following ways:
- In an online panel answered by an expert.
- Phone- you will be provided with a number to contact them on after registering if required, or can provide your number and request a call.
- They also provide free genetic counseling through their network of certified genetic counselors.
- Can be phoned on 1800ANCESTRY (On business days 10-10EST and Sat & Sun 10-6EST) or
- You can submit a question to their online community.
- Can be contacted by email.
How do you take the DNA tests mentioned in this report?
With all three DNA service providers getting your DNA tested is an easy and painless process. You order a kit from the company, provide a sample and register for your online account and results. Providing a sample is as simple as spitting into a vial, providing just a few millimeters of saliva for them to test, or taking a swab and rubbing it over the inside of your cheek.
Are these DNA testing services available to people worldwide?
deCODEme provides their DNA testing services to those worldwide, however please note that some services are not available to residents of particular U.S states. You will find further information on this in their service agreement.
Ancestry.com does not provide the test outside the U.S, but does hope to offer this service in the future.