Common Misconceptions About DNA Upload Sites

Do you want to know what you can do with your DNA raw data?


DNA upload sites are on the rise. Genetic raw data information from ancestry genetic test service providers like 23andme, Ancestry DNA, Family Tree DNA, Living DNA, My Heritage, Genographic Project (Genos 2.0) is uploaded on third-party sites like Promethease, GEDMatch, Xcode Life, Nutrahacker, DNA Land, Genetic Genie among others to get more information. This may be a re-analysis for South Asian ancestry, to know more about their susceptibility to gluten sensitivity, lactose intolerance, Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease. Instead of the $100 23andme health report, these third-party DNA upload sites are providing more health related information than any of the DNA kit-based ancestry genetic testing companies.

Sadly, the myth-ridden genetic testing industry is plagued by unnecessary misconceptions which stop people from availing these useful services. Let’s take a look at some of them.

Myth #1: My genetic information is not safe with DNA upload sites

It’s natural to be concerned about giving a third party DNA raw data analysis tool like Promethease, permission to look into your genetic raw data file. But a credible third party raw data analysis tool will always have a robust privacy policy openly available on their website. Companies like Promethease and Xcode Life give you complete control over your DNA raw data. For example, the Promethease online tool deletes your raw data automatically in 45 days. If you plan to get your raw data analyzed from Xcode Life, then you can delete your raw data by yourself anytime after getting your reports.

Here is an example of a good data privacy and safety policy by a leading personal genomics company link

How do the popular third party raw data analysis tools ensure data safety?

Third party DNA upload sitesDNA Raw data safety
PrometheasePromethease deletes user raw data file after 45 days
Xcode LifeThe only company that allows users to delete their raw data by themselves whenever they want.
GEDMatchGEDMatch uses anonymised raw data information to improve their application.
Genetic genieGenetic Genie uses user information for the purpose of improving their website after taking their permission.
DNA LandDNA Land does not share your genetic information to third parties without your prior consent. While making client data public, it is done in an aggregated format and not as individual cases.

Myth #2: DNA upload sites are not research driven

Contrary to the popular belief that DNA upload sites are merely for fun, reports produced by third party raw data analysis tools are based on publicly available research databases. Though the depth of research and scientific rigour differs between companies. Some companies employ a wide variety of scientific databases to produce their reports while others such as Promethease, may use publicly sourced wiki style curation to report results. So your results may vary depending upon how the information was sourced and analysed. Xcode Life gives expert curated topical genetic health reports from multiple scientific databases and employs advanced algorithms to determine the genetic outcome. The reports also come with detailed disclaimers and information on how to interpret the report, which is very important.

Myth #3: DNA upload sites give diagnostic information.

How often have we come across internet users sharing their raw data analysis reports with panic stricken comments talking about them having mutation for the “breast cancer gene” or the “Alzheimer’s gene”. Despite third party DNA upload sites repeatedly stressing on the fact that this information is to be interpreted only with professional assistance, this myth never seems to wane. So once and for all to clear it up, information from third party DNA raw data analysis tools are very useful, but is not to be acted on just because it is easy to do. The human genome consists of 3 billion characters. If one gene is capable of determining your risk towards a certain disease then there is no reason for the scientific community to be wasting billions of dollars into research on gene-environment, gene-gene and epigenetic research.

Myth #4: Only full genome sequencing can give you health information

This is a misconception that surprisingly springs up even in forums with members who have a genetic background. This is clearly not true. In fact doing a whole genome sequencing for something like generating health reports is not only a waste of money but also downright foolish. First-off human beings are 99.9% similar. Secondly, only 1% of the 3 billion letters in the genome actually translate into proteins. All the rest of it comprises of repetitive sequences, gene regulatory elements and other such non-coding elements. Thirdly, whole genome sequencing is only used when all other forms of genetic screening fails to detect a mutation. The microarray genotyping performed by companies like 23andme, Ancestry DNA, Family Tree DNA and others use the Illumina chip which covers around 7,00,000 genetic markers. Moreover the latest 23andme v5 chip version (Illumina, Global Screening Array) is specially designed to cover more health related markers than any of the previous versions. (Read more about the 23andme v5 chip here).

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