How Long Does a DNA Test Take?

Written by Lewis Cuthbertson, PhD | Last updated:

You’ve chosen a DNA test provider like 23andMe, Ancestry.com or SelfDecode, what next? How long does a DNA test take to process your data so you can use it to find out about your ancestors and health traits?

How long does a DNA test take for health and ancestry?

How long does it take to provide your DNA sample?

The first part of the process is ordering your DNA testing kit. During the ordering process, you will enter a delivery address for your at home DNA testing kit to be sent to. Typically your kit will arrive by mail in 3-5 business days if your kit is being shipped domestically. SelfDecode will actually ship your kit to you within 2-3 days within the US, however, the exact mailing time will depend on the postal service in your country and the country of origin of the testing service.

How long does a DNA test take from SelfDecode

Once your kit has been delivered, it’s time to provide your sample. The majority of leading DNA testing companies will require a saliva sample to be provided. This is done either by filling a plastic collection vial up to a certain level or swabbing the inside of your cheek for DNA, which will take most people around 10 minutes. Reputable companies will provide you with clear step by step instructions on how best to perform this collection..

After generating your sample, you will then mail this directly to the nominated DNA testing facility, typically using a prepaid label, and your sample should again arrive with the company in around 3-5 business days if you are mailing domestically within the US. So, all in all, it will take around a week from purchasing your DNA test to your sample arriving at the testing lab if you provide your sample promptly.

How long does DNA analysis take?

Once you’ve provided your sample to the lab, how long does it take for DNA results? Well, once your sample has been received, it will enter a queue to be processed at the lab. However, how long it takes to process your sample depends largely on how big the queue is.

Whilst the actual process of extracting DNA from your sample and analyzing this on a DNA sequencing machine only takes a few days, the high volume of samples which these facilities process means that the actual processing time is around 4-6 weeks for most companies to get your DNA from your saliva onto your screen.

These processing times are relatively typical for most major providers regardless of whether you order ancestry or health reports, so in total the entire process will take roughly around 6-8 weeks from hitting order so long as you provide and mail your DNA sample to the nominated lab as soon as it arrives. Of course this time may be much shorter depending on how big a queue your sample is in.

Choosing the best DNA testing service

Whilst you can’t entirely control how long it takes to process your DNA sample, one thing you can control is choosing the right DNA testing company. You should always do your research prior to ordering a DNA test, and most importantly consider what it is you would like to get out of your DNA test and if the company you are interested in offers the best service to provide this information.

Best DNA testing service for ancestry

The key question you should ask yourself when determining which ancestry test provider is best for you is what aspect of your ancestry you’re interested in.

If you want the most accurate description of your recent heritage, then Ancestry.com has the most user-generated ancestry data followed by 23andMe, so both of these companies can provide you with the most accurate data currently available. However, Ancestry.com also has a large database of family history documents allowing you to more accurately trace your family tree.

On the other hand, if you are also particularly interested in taking a deeper look into your ancient history by learning about your neanderthal heritage, then 23andMe would be the best service for this, as not all companies offer this service including Ancestry.com.

Best DNA testing service for health reports

When it comes to DNA health tests which you can use to identify and lower your risk of certain health conditions based on genetic variants you carry, the key consideration should of course be how accurate the information you’re being provided is, because who wants to take risks when it comes to their health, right?

One key factor which can help you identify whether the claims in any companies health reports are valid is whether they provide access to the scientific articles used to generate their reports, for example, SelfDecode provides direct links throughout their health reports.

Another factor influencing the accuracy of the health claims made in a company’s wellness reports is the number of genetic variants analyzed. If you analyze more variants known to be linked to a certain condition, you’re more likely to get a better understanding of your overall risk, whereas if you use fewer genetic variants to make a claim this information could be potentially misleading, so make sure to look out for the number of genetic variants tested when selecting a company to provide your health reports.

Humans have millions of genetic variants, so companies must be selective about which aspects of your DNA they investigate. 23andMe for example have to balance the ability to identify both ancestry and health data meaning they don’t investigate as many genetic variants related to health as other companies do

On the other hand, SelfDecode is a dedicated health service and as a result, their AI software analyzes up to 83 million genetic variants to make sure you don’t miss out on any important aspects of your health, which you may do by using a service like 23andMe. SelfDecode also offers personalized diet, lifestyle, and supplement recommendations to help you optimize your health.

Takeaway: How long does a DNA test take?

Whilst the time it takes to physically generate data from your saliva sample is necessarily long, the boom in popularity of at-home DNA tests means that processing times at the facilities used by companies such as 23andMe is a little longer, as a result, you can expect it to take around 6-8 weeks before you receive your ancestry and/or health data.

Although you cannot majorly influence the time it takes to receive your genetic data, one thing you can influence is the quality of the service you receive by taking the time to make sure you choose the right DNA testing provider for your needs. If you’re interested in a gene-based approach to health, you should check out SelfDecode.


About the Author

Lewis Cuthbertson

Lewis completed his PhD in Molecular Microbiology at Northumbria University (UK). Lewis spent several years researching the biodiversity of bacterial communities in the Arctic and Antarctic, whilst also performing research for a DNA sequencing service, where he was involved in several health based microbiome studies. This gave him an insight into how the highly diverse and invisible to the naked eye portion of human health, can potentially impact an individual’s quality of life, driving his desire to help others understand their own complex health needs through the most current scientific research.


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