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How is direct-to-consumer genetic testing done?

For most types of direct-to-consumer genetic testing, the process involves:

1. Purchasing a test

Test kits can be purchased online (and are shipped to your home) or at a store.  The price of some test kits includes the analysis and interpretation, while in other cases this information is purchased separately.

2. Collecting the sample

Collection of the DNA sample usually involves spitting saliva into a tube or swabbing the inside of your cheek and putting that swab into a tube. You then mail the sample as directed by the company. In some cases, you will need to visit a health clinic to have blood drawn.

3. Analyzing the sample

A laboratory will analyze the sample to look for particular genetic variations. The variations included in the test depend on the purpose of the test.

4. Receiving results

In most cases, you will be able to access your results on a secure website or app. (You will likely need to create an account on the testing company website to access results.) Other test companies share results in the mail or over the phone. The results usually include interpretation of what specific genetic variations may mean for your health or ancestry. At some companies, you can request additional explanation from a genetic counselor or other healthcare provider. This additional service may or may not involve an extra cost. Some testing companies may update your results over time based on new scientific information, such as a new genetic variant associated with a trait on their test.

The test kit will include step-by-step instructions, so be sure you understand them before you begin. If you have questions, contact the company before collecting your sample.