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23andMe Aims to Close Genetics Literacy Gap Among Americans in Celebration of DNA Day

April 25, 2013

Americans Express Strong Interest In Understanding Their Genetic Information for Health and Ancestry Benefits In National Survey. Survey Also Reveals Room For Improvement In General Understanding of Genetics.

Mountain View, Calif. – April 25, 2013 – A new survey commissioned by 23andMe – the leading personal genetics company – in celebration of DNA Day reveals that the majority of Americans have an interest in learning more about themselves by exploring their DNA, even though many do not fully understand how their DNA functions.

While only two percent of the nation has already had a genetic test done according to the survey, 73 percent of those who have not yet been tested would like to do so in the future. And for many (71 percent), the opportunity to discover the health conditions for which they are genetically most at-risk is what would draw them to genetic testing.

In fact, 56 percent said they would consider making lifestyle changes, such as diet and exercise, based on the results. Although there is significant interest in learning more about genetic testing, most Americans do not understand the fundamentals of genetics and how DNA functions. More than 80 percent of Americans know that DNA is inherited from both of their parents, and 70 percent are aware that their DNA tells the body which physical traits to express, such as eye and hair color. Yet, half of women surveyed incorrectly believe that the female combination of chromosomes is XY, while almost 25 percent of men surveyed incorrectly believe that the male combination of chromosomes is XX, illustrating confusion around the basic genetics that determine an individual’s sex. In addition, 80 percent were unaware that all humans share 99.5 percent of their DNA. These findings underscore that while some people may generally understand how DNA influences their own identity, there tends to be far less understanding of how DNA functions and how all humans are connected by DNA.

“A majority of Americans is interested in the knowledge that their genetic information can provide,” said Joanna Mountain, PhD, senior director of research, 23andMe. “However, many are unfamiliar with the basics of genetic inheritance and unaware of what they might learn about themselves, in terms of health or ancestry, from their DNA. Our goal is to close the genetics literacy gap and help educate people about the basics of genetic inheritance, the information about ancestry stored in our DNA, the connections between DNA and health, and the potential benefits of genetic testing.”

Genetic testing can also help individuals uncover their ancestry composition and trace their family lineage. According to the survey, more than half of Americans know that people can discover living relatives they never knew existed through their DNA, and 53 percent understand that they can learn about the specific regions or countries where their ancestors originated from. Regardless of why Americans are interested in digging deeply into their DNA, many would share the information in some way; in fact, 71 percent of Americans interested in having a genetic test said they would consider discussing the results with their doctor, while 57 percent said they would consider sharing results with their family members.

As individuals better understand their own DNA, they can also contribute directly to scientific discoveries. 23andMe not only provides individuals with access to their own genetic data, but also offers an opportunity to have their genetic data and responses to online surveys contribute to new scientific and medical discoveries. More than 65 percent of Americans who have not done a genetic test said that knowing that their genetic information could contribute to new discoveries that may lead to life-saving cures and treatments would make them more likely to get tested. Of 23andMe’s more than 250,000 genotyped customers, nearly 90 percent have opted to participate in the company’s research by answering online surveys. As a result, 23andMe has already identified hundreds of new genetic associations.

DNA Day is a day dedicated to promoting genetics education and celebrating the latest advances in genomic research and the many ways genetics impacts our everyday lives. It commemorates the day in 1953 when James Watson, Francis Crick and colleagues published papers in Nature about the structure of DNA. 23andMe is dedicated to helping individuals understand their personal health and ancestry through DNA analysis and research. 23andMe provides individuals with information designed to help them better manage their health, as well as the opportunity to contribute to scientific discoveries. The company’s goal is to transform healthcare and enable people everywhere to live longer, healthier lives through advancement of genetic research and the integration of genetics into personalized medicine. 23andMe provides a variety of free educational resources available to anyone on its website.

You can view the company’s popular Genetics 101 video series and other educational materials at:

The survey was commissioned by 23andMe and conducted in March of 2013 by independent research firm, Kelton. The survey includes 1,067 respondents over the age of 18 among a stratified random sample representative of the United States population. The survey results have a margin of error of + or – 3 percent and a confidence level of 95 percent.

About 23andMe

23andMe, Inc., headquartered in Sunnyvale, CA, is a leading consumer genetics and research company. Founded in 2006, the company’s mission is to help people access, understand, and benefit from the human genome. 23andMe has pioneered direct access to genetic information as the only company with multiple FDA clearances for genetic health reports. The company has created the world’s largest crowdsourced platform for genetic research, with 80% of its customers electing to participate. The 23andMe research platform has generated more than 180 publications on the genetic underpinnings of a wide range of diseases. The platform also powers the 23andMe Therapeutics group, currently pursuing drug discovery programs rooted in human genetics across a spectrum of disease areas, including oncology, respiratory, and cardiovascular diseases, in addition to other therapeutic areas. More information is available at