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What To Do With Raw DNA Data: The Do’s And Don’ts

Written by Lewis Cuthbertson, PhD | Last updated:

A DNA test can tell you a lot about yourself. But, the most important result you’ll get is your raw DNA data. Read on to find out what to do with your raw DNA data (and what not to do).

What is raw DNA data?

Raw DNA files are generated after a DNA sample is sent to a lab for analysis. This can occur when using any DNA testing platform, such as SelfDecode, which offers convenient at-home testing kits.

When an analysis is conducted, a raw DNA data file is generated. The difference is that each platform will analyze slightly or vastly different genetic alterations in our genetic code called SNPs. This is why uploading raw DNA data files to different platforms is beneficial. By uploading a raw DNA data file to different platforms, one can potentially discover even more about their genetic blueprint.

You can access your 23andMe raw data to use it with other platforms. Likewise, you can also download your Ancestry file for the same purpose.

What to do with Ancestry DNA results

If you’ve taken an Ancestry DNA test, you’re probably wondering ‘what can I do with my AncestryDNA raw data’. Well actually excitingly there are quite a few things you can do, and also a few things you shouldn’t do.

Tip: If you had your DNA tested for ancestry, you can still upload it to other websites to get information on your health.

What to do with DNA results: Do’s

Do maximize the value of your DNA test

If you’ve paid for a DNA test to investigate your ancestry, then the chances are that you would like to get the most for your money. Who wouldn’t?

DNA tests can be expensive depending on the provider you choose. The good news is that there are a range of trustworthy places you can utilize your raw DNA data, all of which can tell you different things about yourself from your ethnicity to the likelihood of you enjoying a cup of coffee.

Make sure to thoroughly research your options. One thing to be aware of is that not all services accept all types of raw DNA data. Many services for example only accept 23andMe formatted data, however others like SelfDecode accept raw DNA data from a wide variety of sources.

There are also tools available online which can convert your data to different formats, but again these will not necessarily work for all services.

The two most common uses for raw DNA data are ancestry and health reports. So a good place to start if you’re wondering what to do with your raw DNA data and want to maximize your value is to simply go for a health based company if you have ancestry data or vice versa.

Whilst some companies offer both ancestry and health reports, they aren’t necessarily the best offering of both, so rather than paying extra for a comprehensive ‘all inclusive’ offering with any single company, consider researching the best companies for all of your individual interests before you commit to anything.

When choosing a company to upload your raw DNA data for health, do pay attention to the number of genetic variants analyzed. Most DNA companies only look at one or two variants, which means you might not receive the complete picture of your health. For example, SelfDecode looks at an average of one million variants per report to give you the most accurate information for your health.

Do protect your privacy

One of the most important considerations when taking a DNA test with any service should be how they maintain your privacy. Will the company sell your genetic data to third parties?

All companies have different privacy policies, for example 23andMe will share your data with third parties, whereas SelfDecode will not share your data without consent under any circumstances.

If you’ve taken the time to select a company to perform your DNA testing based upon their privacy policy, it is of course important to not use the data they have provided you with other companies without first checking their privacy policies too.

Do make sure that you can understand the information you’re getting

Genetic information can be pretty complex. Just because a company has commercialized DNA testing and advertises itself as easy to understand doesn’t necessarily mean that’s the case. When taking in their genetic information, for most, it’s a learning process, and everyone learns in a different way.

Make sure to check out reviews and screenshots of the reports available from the services you are interested in before you hand over your data to make sure they look easy to digest to you.

What to do with DNA results: Don’ts

Don’t just upload your results to anywhere that will accept them

What can I do with my raw DNA data is the first question most people ask themselves once they have access to it. This leads many people to google where they can upload DNA files and immediately begin uploading their data to any site which allows them to, especially if the offered service is free.

But this is a risky thing to do. You should always be very selective when it comes to sharing your genetic information with any service. Some of the things you should look out for when deciding how reputable a DNA service is are company longevity, the mission statement of the company and as mentioned their privacy policy. If you’d like to read reviews and learn more about numerous services, check out the review posts on our blog.

Don’t assume you already have all of the information you need

Just because you have an ancestry report or a health report from one site, doesn’t mean there isn’t more detailed or new information available elsewhere. Take for example the 23andMe health report. This report will tell you information such as how likely you are to be lactose intolerant based upon the SNPs in your DNA file. Another DNA testing service may not provide you with information on lactose intolerance but instead inform you of the risk of having a particular disease.

There are also companies which offer more depth on health reports or ancestry. When it comes to ancestry reports, 23andMe offers the most comprehensive neanderthal DNA report telling you where your family came from thousands of years ago. Other big players in ancestry DNA testing such as AncestryDNA do not offer this service.

When it comes to health reports, most will simply tell you how likely you are to experience a particular health issue based upon the SNPs you carry. SelfDecode’s reports on the other hand contain targeted recommendations to counteract any negative genes you may carry making what they offer unique. So, if you know you are predisposed to certain conditions from say a 23andMe health report but would like to know how you can counteract these genes to optimize your health, then signing up to SelfDecode could be a great option.

Not only that, but SelfDecode uses AI and machine learning to analyze up to 83 million genetic variants from a typical DNA file you upload. With SelfDecode, you’ll receive a more comprehensive analysis than any other DNA company.

Conclusion

There are a lot of options when choosing what to do with your raw DNA data, and you don’t want to just upload your personal data to just any site, but don’t let that put you off. So long as you take care to read the privacy policy and read a few reviews on any company you upload your data to, you should be able to safely maximize the value of your DNA data.

This allows you to gain useful insights into your genetic makeup helping you understand your ancient ancestry using companies like 23andMe as well as optimize your health using personalized health services such as SelfDecode.

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About the Author

Lewis Cuthbertson

PhD
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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