Tilting at windmills no longer: A data-driven discussion of DTC DNA ancestry tests

Jennifer K. Wagner, Jill D. Cooper, Rene Sterling, Charmaine D. Royal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Purpose: Discussions about direct-to-consumer (DTC) DNA ancestry tests have to date been based primarily on conjectures, speculation, and anecdotes, despite the industry being more than a decade old. Representative, empirical data on consumer characteristics; motivations and expectations for testing; intended uses for the information; understanding of results; and behavioral and psychological reactions to the tests are absent. Although the 2010 American Society of Human Genetics white paper clarifies the number and some general characteristics of companies marketing and selling DNA ancestry tests, additional data about the industry's practices have been unavailable. Methods: To promote a data-driven discussion of the DNA ancestry testing industry, we conducted a systematic investigation to identify companies selling DNA ancestry tests and conducted an empirical study of the industry's practices using data collected from each company's website. Results: Here, we present a wealth of data, including an updated directory of companies, marketing slogans, product types and names, range of prices, diversity of reporting and representing results, noted benefits and limitations of testing, and a host of website practices. Conclusion: The tremendous diversity of tests, information, and practices of companies in the DNA ancestry sector should be considered when policies for best practice guidelines or regulatory oversight are being developed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)586-593
Number of pages8
JournalGenetics in Medicine
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Genetics(clinical)


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