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What Unexpected Things Might I Learn from 23andMe?

Looking at your genetic data might uncover information that some people find surprising. This information can be relatively benign. At other times, the information you learn can have profound implications for both you and your family. 23andMe cannot provide you with an exhaustive list of all the unexpected things you might uncover during your genetic exploration, but in general these things fall into four main categories.

Health  |  Ancestry  |  Family  |  Relationships


Each of us carries a large number of genetic variations - from differences at single DNA "letters" to duplications or deletions spanning entire chromosomes. Our Carrier Status* reports tell you about variants that may not affect your health, but could affect the health of your future family. Carrier status testing can look for some of these genetic variations that can cause inherited conditions. Being a carrier means that you have one variant for the inherited condition. Carriers typically don't have the condition but can pass the variant to their children. If you and your partner are both carriers for the same inherited condition, you may have a child with the condition. In addition, some genes are associated with more than one health condition or trait. You may learn that you are a carrier for a gene associated with multiple health conditions. Genetic counseling can help you understand your results and options. It is recommended before testing, and also if you are a carrier.

Our Genetic Health Risk* reports tell you if you have genetic variants associated with an increased risk of developing certain health conditions. Having a particular variant linked to a higher risk for a condition does not necessarily mean you will develop the condition. This is because other factors like lifestyle, environment, and family history can also affect your risk. For some of these conditions, prevention and treatment options may be available, but for others, these options may be limited or nonexistent. Learning that you have a genetic risk factor for a disease can be difficult and it is important to think about what this type of information could mean for you.

We encourage you to learn more so you can decide whether testing is right for you. A genetic counselor, a healthcare professional with special training in genetic conditions, will be able to answer your specific questions and help you make an informed decision. Talk to your healthcare provider or click here to search for a genetic counselor near you (this link takes you to the Canadian Association of Genetic Counsellors).



Genetic information can also tell you things about your ancestry and origins, and therefore about your relationship to other groups of people across the globe. Sometimes this information will confirm things you already know about your particular heritage or origins. At other times, this information might surprise you, and you might learn that you share a genetic history with unexpected groups.

Different people feel differently about this kind of information; some people are excited about these new connections and others take more time to integrate this information into their sense of self. As with much of the information you might uncover on your genetic voyage, how this new information makes you feel will depend on your personal viewpoint.



Because our genes are part of our family heritage, genetic information can sometimes reveal things about our biological relationships to other family members. In the process of learning about your genetic makeup and comparing that with others, you may discover relatives who were previously unknown to you, these could be relatives you’ve been looking for and are excited to connect with or relatives (sometimes even close relatives like brothers or sisters) that you didn’t know existed. Your genetic profile can also lead you to other, distant branches of your family tree.

In a similar way, genetic information can also reveal that someone you thought you were related to is not your biological relative. This happens most frequently in the case of paternity, where someone learns that their biological father is not who they thought it was.



Because genetic information is hereditary, knowing something about your genetics also tells you something about those closely related to you. Your family may or may not want to know this information as well, and relationships with others can be affected by learning about your DNA.

Everyone has different tolerances and preferences for learning information. You might be surprised by a family member who would prefer not to know something you feel is important to share. At other times, you may learn something about yourself or your family that you would prefer to keep private. You may find yourself having to weigh sharing such information with other family members against your own desire for privacy - or their desire not to know.


*The 23andMe PGS test uses qualitative genotyping to detect select clinically relevant variants in the genomic DNA of adults from saliva for the purpose of reporting and interpreting genetic health risks and reporting carrier status. It is not intended to diagnose any disease. Your ethnicity may affect the relevance of each report and how your genetic health risk results are interpreted. Each genetic health risk report describes if a person has variants associated with a higher risk of developing a disease, but does not describe a person’s overall risk of developing the disease. The test is not intended to tell you anything about your current state of health, or to be used to make medical decisions, including whether or not you should take a medication, how much of a medication you should take, or determine any treatment. Our carrier status reports can be used to determine carrier status, but cannot determine if you have two copies of any genetic variant. These carrier reports are not intended to tell you anything about your risk for developing a disease in the future, the health of your fetus, or your newborn child's risk of developing a particular disease later in life. For certain conditions, we provide a single report that includes information on both carrier status and genetic health risk.


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