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Where to Start with your Raw DNA data

Joel
Writer: Joel
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Updated on: March 26, 2021
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What Do I Do with DNA Raw Data?

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?

Using an at-home DNA test and sending it to a testing company is a trend that has increased in popularity in the last decade or so. Although many of these commercial testing companies have limitations and cannot provide as much information and analysis as medical DNA testing, there’s still a great opportunity to learn more about yourself.

Some websites offer free DNA upload where you can upload your raw DNA data for interpretation. However, this comes with a lot of risks. Giving out your raw data to an unknown provider poses a risk of someone leaking your DNA file. 

Instead, you can download and store the data obtained from your DNA test; until you find a reputable company that can interpret them for you without manipulation or selling your information.

Your response to this information varies based on your goals. Some people want to reduce their risk of genetic health conditions while others want to know more about their heritage. Most people have some combination of these goals.

No matter how you want to use DNA technology and information, we’ll provide you with the information you need to for conclusions about yourself and your heritage. 

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Why is Downloading Your Raw DNA Data Important?

Professional researchers will tell you that understanding your DNA provides a look into your genetic risks and your heritage. Exploring your DNA is exciting, but just looking at the information provided by a genetic testing company is just the beginning. Human genetics is a complicated field and if you really want to put the information you learn to use, there are several things you should do.

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:

  • Allows you to delete the information from the testing service because you have your own copy
  • View information that was not assessed by the testing service
  • Create a backup of the information in case it is destroyed or damaged

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:

  • Insurance companies
  • Law enforcement
  • Employees

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.

Health risks

DNA testing can help uncovered potential health risks common to a particular family generation. How is this possible? Genetics is one of the main risk factors observed in diseases like cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and autoimmune diseases.

Family history influences many health risks because you inherit a set of genes from each of your parents. These genes come encoded with lots of genetic variants. This may include diseases and other physical attributes.

DNA testing can help reveal these health risks by decoding the arrangement of these gene complements; based on its arrangements throughout your family history. Most companies that offer DNA testing services arrange your DNA in a sequence. They use this process to determine which sequence carries a potential health risk.

For example, the FDA authorized the first direct-to-consumer genetic testing on people with poor medication metabolism. The authority for this test was given to 23andMe genetic testing company. 23andMe has huge genetic databases where they store bits of genomic information. This information is used as samples and markers to determine the ancestry and health risks common to a particular ethnicity. This has provided a clear direction in observing why many diseases occur, and also addressed the potential steps necessary to cure them.

Although DNA testing can't be used to cure diseases yet, it opens a window that shows you some health risks are common to your lineage. 

Ancestry

Our ancestors migrated a lot in the early days. This migration occurred due to scarcity of food and shelter, harsh weather, or curiosity. During this migration, lots of genomes mixed during intertribal matings that led to variation in ethnicities. So many family trees were formed but remained untraceable.

DNA testing can reveal your origins. Most people interested in tracing their family tree from the very beginning undergo genetic testing. How does this work? Companies like 23andMe and Ancestry.com are solving this problem through DNA testing. These companies just require an upload of your saliva samples through their DNA testing kits, and they will give you information about your ancestry.

When these variations are obtained as bits of information, they compare them to DNA results obtained from others who have already conducted the same tests. The test’s conclusion depends on the similarities between some variants from your genome and others present in their databases.

A typical result from genetic ancestry testing may be 25% Asian, 20% African, 50% European, and 5% unknown. These results are inferred from a huge database of variations familiar with the mentioned ethnicities. This is why some people may have third and fourth cousins from different ethnicities.

How does DNA affect my health

DNA determines more than half of your body features and processes. The physical manifestation of your genes (phenotype) which involves the way you look, talk, or walk, was obtained from your parents and pre-encoded in your DNA before birth.

One of the influences of the DNA on your phenotype also involves your health.

Your DNA influences your health in many ways. Although this influence is already predetermined and can't be changed, it is crucial to know the possibilities and risks of diseases common to your genome.

A normal genome in your body has tens of thousands of genes. Each genetic disease has a group of genes assigned to them. Diseases like diabetes, breast cancer, and other autoimmune diseases are predetermined by specific genes or some group of genes. 

We can link genetics to some other disease conditions. Some forms of cancer, cardiovascular diseases, and liver problems can be traced to a specific arrangement of certain gene variants.

To determine the significance of the DNA in your health, most DNA tests use genetic markers common to your ancestry to trace disease-causing genes. These genes are identified by following a periodic occurrence among members of your ancestral lineage.

In summary, your DNA and overall genetic makeup can determine your susceptibility to lesser-known diseases not caused by environmental factors. The more familiar you're with information concerning your health and DNA, the more control you have over your health and how to manage it.

Why you should do a DNA test

Most people do DNA tests to know their ancestry. But DNA testing can tell you more about your body and overall health. DNA testing can help doctors and other health practitioners detect a genetic disease as early as possible. This process allows for an early and controlled management of such diseases.

Other reasons why you should consider DNA testing include:

  • You can trace your family tree and ethnicity.
  • Opportunity to determine hereditary diseases transferable to an unborn child.
  • Ability to determine unlikely disease traits such as lactose intolerance and irritable bowel syndrome.
  • You can be aware of the chances of being obese, or having an abnormal body weight. 

Where to start with your raw DNA data?

Start by protecting it and deleting it once your test is complete and you download the information you need.

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What’s Included in Your Raw DNA Data File?

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.

Sharing Your DNA Results with Your Medical Team

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.

There are several ways that raw DNA information helps you better manage your health. You can apply your DNA info to everything from nutrition to fitness to health risks to understanding yourself better. For example, if your DNA test results reveal that you have a slower-than-average metabolism and you are sensitive to lactose, you can adjust your nutrition plan to accommodate these findings.

Additionally, DNA information provides guidance for your vitamin needs, so you can better optimize your nutrition in that way. Whatever your health and nutrition goals, DNA analysis helps you make improvements.

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.

What about fitness? Can DNA test results be a powerful tool to help you improve your fitness?

Absolutely.

DNA and ancestry testing results from major companies help you understand how your body works. This means you can make better decisions about fitness and health. So if you feel as if you've been doing endless cardio and getting nowhere, it could be linked to your genetics. If no matter how much you lift you don't experience the gains you want, it could be genetics. Together, with your DNA nutrition profile, you can improve your performance and get the results you need. DNA testing also helps you understand endurance performance, performance abilities, and more. 

What about Disease Risks?

DNA testing looks at your genetic relatives and their health risks and allows individuals to determine their personal risk of many common diseases. If you fall into a high-risk category, you might be able to make lifestyle changes to reduce your risk. Genealogy is a powerful tool that provides a comparison to the general populous when it comes to health risks. 

But this method isn't always in your best interest.

Learning that you have a higher risk of certain diseases can be devastating. Some people are reluctant to study their genetic risks because they don't want to live their lives hampered by their fears. Others aren't concerned, but once they learn of a particular risk, they realize they weren't emotionally prepared to get a glimpse into their potential health future. 

Laboratories can evaluate your DNA sample and help you determine what you might face down the road, but unless you are ready for this information, you're better off not knowing. Technology is powerful, but unless you are ready to deal with the effects of knowing about serious health risks, it's better for your wellness to just avoid the information.

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. 

Try the competitor

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.

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We took every DNA test so you don't have to. Read our 2021 review of the best DNA tests.


Analysis as a service

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

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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

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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.

What Should You Do with DNA Data?

It depends.

First, understand that knowledge doesn't always mean wellness power. Knowing can be more dangerous than not knowing for some people.  But the predictions in DNA data aren't always 100 percent accurate. Just because you have a parent with a disease or a grandparent or distant relative doesn't mean it's going to affect you. The best thing you can do is evaluate the risk you believe you might have, determine if lifestyle changes will improve your situation if you learn the risk is genetic, and go from there.

Next, find a reputable testing company so you increase the odds you’ll get accurate results. Your doctor can guide you through what the results mean, but you want to be sure any analyses are as accurate as possible. There are limitations no matter which company you choose, but the more reputable the better.

Genealogists warn that getting your test results from a disreputable company leads to misdirection and offers no valuable information. If you truly want to learn more about your identity or you want to expend your knowledge regarding your health and wellness, you must work with a company that uses a reliable testing method and prioritizes accuracy in its results.

Finally, request that your raw data be deleted once you've gotten your results. Most reputable test companies, including Ancestry.com, allow you to do this and provide detailed information on how they store and use DNA test results. This avoids problems with storage and security and prevents companies from sharing your information with third-parties.


Cheap DNA Kits (all under $60). Read our 2021 Guide.

@ 2021 by Know Your DNA. All right reserved.
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