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Cost Of Genetic Testing
Updated on February 13, 2024
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Cost Of Genetic Testing
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Key Takeaways

Cost Of Genetic Testing 1

Genetic testing costs vary depending on the type of test you’re taking. They can cost you anywhere between $90 to over $2,000 per test.1 Costs can add up if you take more than one test or if other family members are required to take the same test.1

One way to fund these tests is through health insurance—but not every insurance company operates the same. 

While health insurance companies sometimes cover the total cost of genetic tests administered by your healthcare provider and in labs, they don’t usually cover at-home DNA test kits.2

It’s best to ask your healthcare provider about your insurance coverage, payment plans, and other added costs that you have to pay on top of the insured amount.

You can also pay for genetic testing instead of relying on your health insurance plan.2

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What Is Genetic Testing?

Genetic testing examines your DNA to identify changes—like genetic mutations or variants—that may cause disease or increase your risk for genetic disorders.

Since deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) is a genetic material that you inherit from your parents, it may also provide clues about your other genetic traits.

Genetic testing can help you:3,4

  • Trace your ancestry
  • Discover your ethnic origins
  • Find lost family members
  • Learn more about your traits
  • Find out if you have a genetic disorder
  • Identify diseases you’re at risk for
  • Confirm biological relationships (e.g., paternity)

Some genetic tests also assess your carrier status or likelihood of passing on certain illnesses to your future offspring.3

Others can detect abnormalities in babies (like chromosomal conditions) before or shortly after they are born.3

Cost Of Genetic Testing 2

What Does Genetic Testing Look For?

Your DNA is your body’s instruction manual. It dictates the many functions that make you up and help you thrive—including how proteins should be made.

When grouped together, your DNA makes up chains called chromosomes.

Your genes, chromosomes, and the activity level of proteins in your DNA contain information about your ancestors, physical traits, behavior, and health.

Depending on the type of testing you’re taking, it can tell you about any:3,4

  • Genetic variations or markers
  • Abnormal changes (gene mutations)
  • Chromosomal abnormalities
  • The activity levels of your proteins
  • Matching DNA uploaded to the same testing company’s database
Cost Of Genetic Testing 3

Source: 123rf

Two Different Types Of Genetic Tests

There are two basic kinds of genetic tests:

  • Clinical (medical) genetic tests
  • At-home genetic tests

These tests can be further categorized based on what they measure (like your genome or a single gene variant). 

There are also different types of genetic tests based on their purpose (such as ancestry testing and paternity testing).

Below, we’ll cover the types of medical and at-home genetic tests based on how the tests are performed and the markers they test for.

Clinical Genetic Tests

These tests are ordered by doctors, often for medical reasons. They can determine whether or not a person has a genetic disorder or if they are at higher risk for certain conditions.5

For instance, a doctor will start medical care by ordering colon cancer screenings if you have a personal or family history of colon cancer or polyps.

Other tests can confirm your biological relationship with a suspected relative—like a father, mother, son, daughter, uncle, or aunt.

Medical genetic tests can also be used to identify people for legal reasons—like a crime suspect or someone who can’t be identified by other means.

DNA Sequencing Test

This test looks for genetic changes in one or more genes. Also known as a molecular genetic test, it checks the order of the nucleotides (DNA building blocks) that make up a person’s genetic code.

Here are the six types of DNA sequencing tests:5,6

DNA Sequencing TestWhat It Looks For
Targeted single variant testA specific variant in a single gene
Single gene testGenetic variants in a single gene
Gene panel testGenetic variants in several genes
Whole exome sequencing (WES) testAll genetic variants found in exomes that make up a person’s genome
Clinical exome sequencing (CES) testOnly genetic variants found in exomes that are related to disease
Whole genome sequencing (WGS) testAll genetic markers found in genomes that make up a person’s DNA

Chromosomal Genetic Test

As its name implies, a chromosomal test looks for massive DNA changes across a person’s chromosomes. It identifies chromosomal abnormalities, such as:6

  • Extra copies of chromosomes (trisomy)
  • Missing copies of chromosomes (monosomy)
  • Missing pieces (deleted chromosome)
  • Added pieces (duplicate chromosome)
  • Rearranged chromosomes (translocations)

Chromosomal problems have been linked to conditions that affect a person’s growth and development.

For example, trisomy 21, an abnormality that results in three copies of chromosome 21 instead of just two, causes Down Syndrome.

Gene Expression Test

A gene expression test checks the messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) cells in your body and identifies genes that are turned on or active.

Genes that are too active (overexpressed) or have too little activity (underexpressed) suggest the presence of genetic diseases like cancer.

Cost Of Genetic Testing 4

Biochemical Genetic Test

Instead of analyzing your DNA, this genetic test looks at the number of proteins or enzymes produced by your genes.

Overproduction and underproduction of certain enzymes and proteins suggest changes in the DNA. These may be signs of a genetic disorder.

At-Home DNA Tests

Healthy individuals usually take these tests to explore their DNA.5 At-home kits that look at your ancestry usually perform these tests:7

At-Home Genetic TestWhat It Looks At
Y-DNA testThe Y-chromosomes, which fathers pass on to their sons (patrilineal)
mtDNA testMitochondrial DNA, which mothers pass on to their children, regardless of sex (matrilineal)
Autosomal DNA testAutosomal chromosomes, which parents pass to their children (matrilineal and patrilineal)

Some at-home genetic tests, like paternity kits, perform DNA sequencing.8 Others, like 23andMe, use genotyping to identify a person’s genetic variants.9

DNA tests that help you find relatives or confirm biological relationships may require a close family member (like a parent or sibling) to take the same test for more accurate results.

How Does Genetic Testing Work?

The process is different for medical and at-home genetic tests.

Medical Genetic Testing

  • Requires a doctor's order: You'll need a prescription or referral from a doctor or genetic counselor.
  • Done in a medical setting: Tests happen in a hospital, clinic, or specialized lab.
  • Samples: May need blood, cheek swabs, or tissue samples, depending on the test.
  • Results take time: Can take several weeks for detailed lab analysis.
  • Professional explanation: You'll discuss results with a doctor or genetic counselor who can explain implications and next steps.

At-Home Genetic Testing

  • No prescription needed: Buy online or at certain stores.
  • Do it yourself: Tests are simple and done at home.
  • Usually saliva or cheek swab: Easy, painless sample collection.
  • Results faster: Often within a couple of weeks.
  • Results directly to you: Reports provided by the testing company, usually online or through an app.

13+ Benefits Of Genetic Testing

At-home DNA tests are more affordable and accessible since they don’t require the approval of your doctor or health insurance company.12

They also offer personalized information about your ancestry, traits, and health.12

However, medical genetic tests provide a more reliable way for diagnostic testing and detecting changes in your DNA that either cause or increase your risk for certain diseases.

Cost Of Genetic Testing 5

Here are other benefits of DNA testing:

  • Check for health risks – Predictive genetic testing can uncover genetic diseases you’re at risk of developing later in life, even if you have no medical history or physical symptoms.13
  • Diagnose genetic diseases and chromosomal abnormalities – Diagnostic testing can confirm a diagnosis if you have signs and symptoms.11
  • Know the health problems your children are at risk for Carrier testing can assess both parents for genetic conditions they’ll likely pass on to their children.11 Some people use this to decide whether or not they have kids.13
  • Lower your risk of having a child with a genetic disorder Preimplantation testing detects genetic changes in embryos conceived using fertility treatments like in-vitro fertilization (IVF). Only healthy embryos without these changes are implanted in the expecting mother.11
  • Prove paternity or maternity Maternity and paternity testing can prove or disprove biological relations between children and suspected parents.
  • Confirm if you’re related to someone– Other DNA tests (like grandparent and avuncular genetic testing) prove other types of biological relationships, such as grandparentage and aunt or uncle status.
  • Locate possible relatives – Whether you’re looking for your biological parents or missing family members, many at-home genetic tests can help you find them—as long as they also took the same test/s.
  • Can be used as evidence for legal purposes – Forensic testing can implicate or rule out a suspected criminal.11 Other tests may help with cases involving child custody, child support, immigration, and inheritance.
  • Identify a person. Forensic DNA tests can identify ashes and unrecognizable remains, such as victims of fires and crimes.
  • Learn more about your ancestry – Many at-home DNA tests can estimate your ancestors’ origins, identify ethnic groups you share DNA with, and learn more about your family history.
  • Uncover your physical and behavioral traits – For example, the gene OR26A makes cilantro taste like soap in some people.
  • Become proactive about your health – Results that reflect the potential for congenital disorders can prompt you to seek diagnosis, treatment, and preventive measures so you can avoid the development or worsening of a genetic disease.13
  • Get peace of mind – Test results that show no inclination towards genetic disorders may provide you with a sense of relief and spare you from unnecessary checkups and testing.12

Are There Risks To Genetic Testing?

Genetic testing poses some risks, though it depends on the test you’re taking.

Risks of Medical Genetic Tests

Clinical genetic tests have a few safety risks. And they’re often linked to more invasive methods.

For example, pregnant women who take prenatal genetic tests have a small risk of miscarriage because they require samples from around the fetus.14

Most of the potential risks are associated with a person’s emotional, social, and financial well-being.14

A possible scenario is it can reveal information about relatives and cause anxiety, guilt, anger, and depression within the family and members who took the test.

Cost Of Genetic Testing 6

Risks of At-Home Genetic Tests

At-home DNA kits are generally safer because they involve non-invasive procedures. However, they aren’t usually regulated.

The privacy of your genetic data is a common concern. People often worry that DNA testing companies sell genetic data or share personal information with third parties like employers and private insurers. This can affect your employment, salary, and insurance coverage.

While there are some private DNA tests we recommend, hackers might gain access to your data and compromise your privacy.

At-home tests also do not actively involve genetic counseling. So you might make decisions based on misinterpreted, incomplete, or inaccurate information12—unless you take your results to a genetic professional.

Cost Of Genetic Testing 7

How Accurate Are Genetic Tests?

For the most part, genetic tests are very accurate. Medical genetic testing can be a reliable way of finding out which genetic variants you have (and don’t have).

These tests are performed in genetic testing labs that comply with the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA)—ensuring their clinical validity.15

The accuracy of at-home genetic tests in determining your ethnic origins and genetic risks or finding relatives is unfortunately limited.

The size of a company’s database and testing method may affect the accuracy of your results and limit the number of health risks or potential family members they can find.

While most genetic testing labs that work with at-home DNA companies are CLIA-certified, some of them are not.15

If you take an at-home test to check for health risks, you may need medical testing to confirm your DNA results.12

What’s the Best Genetic Test Kit?

Our team looked at over 10+ genetic kits and compared them based on the size of their DNA database, their testing method, and the results they provided.

We recommend AncestryDNA for determining your ethnic origins and finding relatives. The company has a large user database to compare your DNA with, which increases your chances of finding a genetic match.

Cost Of Genetic Testing 8

It can tell you where your ancestors come from and trace their migration routes.

But if you want to learn more about your DNA, our top pick is 23andMe. It provides personalized reports on ancestry, health risks, and various traits.

23andMe traces your ancestors from more than 2,750+ regions across the world. 

It provides more than 80 reports on how your genes influence your lifestyle, health risks, and carrier status for some genetic disorders.

Cost Of Genetic Testing 9

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Updated on February 13, 2024
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15 sources cited
Updated on February 13, 2024
Ada Sandoval
Ada Sandoval
Content Contributor
Ada Sandoval is a B.S. in Nursing graduate and a registered nurse with a heart for abandoned animals. She works as a content writer who specializes in medical-related articles and pet health.
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