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If you’ve taken a DNA test, you already know how much information you’ll get from the test results. But what do you do with all of that data? Do you know how to read raw DNA data? How can you use it to help you improve your life and learn more about your health risks and your ancestry?
We’ll answer all of these questions and provide you with information about raw DNA data tools that will allow you to make the most of your DNA test results.
Exploring your DNA is exciting, but just looking at the information provided by a genetic testing company isn’t enough. What do I do with my DNA results?
First, you’ll want to download your information. Downloading DNA data:
Before you decide what to do with your DNA, it’s important to know what others can do with it. Leaving your information stored with the testing service means other people can gain access to it. Not only does this mean you’re at risk for criminals hacking into the information, but you also need to worry about less obvious threats. Your DNA could be valuable information to:
You are responsible for protecting your DNA from anyone who could use it against you. You should be cautious about providing your information or allowing any third-party company to store your DNA data, especially those that offer free analysis.
We took every DNA test so you don't have to. Read our 2020 review of the best DNA tests.
Start by protecting it and deleting it once your test is complete and you download the information you need.
Once you submit your sample of DNA, the testing company you’re working with will return to you a file of raw DNA. Chances are it won’t make much sense when you view the file. It’s essentially numbers and letters, usually organized into an Excel or Google document.
This is raw information that needs interpreting, but only those with special training can interpret DNA data. It’s possible to search for a specific variant, which is how a lot of people use their raw data. They look for a sequence in their DNA that indicates their risk for a genetic disease.
To get a better look into your DNA and be able to use the information helpfully, you’ll need to input the information into a system that features a searchable database.
Where can I upload raw DNA data? You have several options.
People who use AncestryDNA and 23andMe will get this service automatically. These services and others like them do the hard work for you and take care of all of the cross-referencing needed to “read” your raw DNA. Some people upload their raw results into several sites so they can get the most comprehensive look into their test results as possible.
An analysis of your raw DNA data also helps you locate close family members. Many sites keep a database of people’s DNA test results. Once you upload your information, you’ll be connected with people whose results were similar to yours. Even if you don’t make a match with a specific person, you’ll get to explore ancestral links and learn more about your heritage.
Finally, you’ll want to share your DNA test and personal information with your medical team. They’ll help you interpret it and determine if there are any changes to consider based on the results. If your test identifies an increased risk for a disease or condition, there might be lifestyle changes you can make to reduce that risk.
It’s important to review your information with medical professionals and/or a genetic counselor before making any major decisions.
So if you’ve been asking “what can I do with my DNA results?” we’ve offered a few ideas. Protect the information that’s been culled from your DNA sample and upload it to assessment sites to learn as much as possible. Then speak to your doctor about the implications of what you’ve learned.
The results you get from DNA testing companies are only the start of your genetic exploration. But downloading your raw DNA data should be one of your priorities once your test is complete.
A few DNA testing companies offer the ability to use their processing and databases to analyze the raw data from a different service. LivingDNA is probably the best example of this, with the high-level privacy and security policies that are expected of companies that test DNA. Depending on the source of your data, you may not be able to access all of their available resources, like Fatherline and Motherline information.
The real power of uploading to LivingDNA is access to their ‘One Family, One World’ project. This is an effort to make as many connections between humans as they can. Because of this goal, they offer the service for free upon uploading your raw DNA data. You’ll have instant access to DNA connections with suspected relatives in their database. Also, you'll receive on-going updates if any further matches are made. They also offer the option to contribute your data to research, primarily in genealogy.
MyHeritage DNA offers a similar service, giving you the ability to get at least two or three different interpretations of the data from your DNA kit. However, ancestry- and heritage-related results displace health-related analysis.
With the rise of at-home genetic testing, an entire industry has cropped up around the large DNA-kit companies in the field. This is still an incredibly new emergence, and caution should most certainly be exercised when exploring your options. Considering there’s no actual handling of DNA on their part, the policies they have in place may not be as stringent as the big players.
Genomelink is more of a novelty than anything, but it is definitely fun. For no charge, it allows you access to 25 traits that may be influenced by your genetics. Additionally, a subscription service gets you a new report every week, with the latest research to back it up.
Lifenome is probably as sophisticated as you can get without consulting a medical professional directly. The company combines AI-powered algorithms with research-backed databases to provide you with unparalleled insight into your genes and how they affect your life. However, it has a price-tag to match, on par with the initial DNA-kit itself.
Know more about yourself for less. Read our favorite DNA tests under $30 and under $60.