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Put into Perspective

Because he says he "can't resist a good sale," PCMag's Dan Costa was one of many who sent spit in to 23andMe during the direct-to-consumer genetic profiling firm's $0 down, $9 per month subscription fee offer. Reviewing his genotyping results, Costa says that many of the traits screened "are of low importance: I have alcohol-flush reaction (marker rs671), my earwax type is wet (marker rs17822931), and I have a higher than average chance of asparagus metabolite detection (marker rs4481887)." However, he adds, "there are nuggets that could be useful, like my increased sensitivity to Warfarin." As for the restricted risk scores for certain conditions that the company provides, Costa says "you have to know how to read those numbers." For instance, he says that his "33.9 percent risk for atrial fibrillation was heart-stopping, until I realized the average risk was up at 27.2 percent." Costa says it is important to remember that personal genotyping results are not diagnostic — the data are just potential indicators, which, in many cases, lack sufficient context.

"Whatever the limits of personal genomics, there are two important trends," Costa says. "First, it encourages people to be more involved in personal health management. … The other opportunity here exists within the massive data set itself. In the three years since 23andMe launched, it has sequenced thousands of people. That is a treasure trove of genetic data that could be used to find all sorts of genetic associations."