DeCODEme Review

I signed up for and paid the relatively high $2,000 for DeCODEme's genome test and analysis one year ago, so I'd like to share what the product offers and my impressions of its offering. (Update: the price for the complete scan has been dropped to $1,100)

First, DeCODEme is a product of DeCODE Genetics, an Iceland-based firm founded in 1996 and co-founded by Kari Stefansson and Jeffrey Gulcher, both having worked in neurology at Beth Deaconess Hospital in Boston and a Harvard Medical School.

DeCODEme uses the Illumina Infinium HumanIM chip, which measures 1.2 million SNPs (single nucleotide polymorphisms), about double that of 23andMe, whose Illumina HumanHap550+, scans about 570,000 SNPs.

The number of SNPs, of course, is meaningless, without knowing what DeCODEme does with the data. Providing both health-related and genealogical (ethnic heritage) insights, the service provides several different ways of presenting the information.

A sample of the SNPs tested by DeCODEme

(click column header to sort results)
Conditions  
SNPs  
Cancer Conditions
 
Basal Cell Cancer
6
Bladder Cancer
4
Brain Cancer-Glioma
4
Breast Cancer
12
Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia
8
Colorectal Cancer
8
Lung Cancer
2
Melanoma
0
Ovarian Cancer
1
Pancreatic Cancer
4
Prostate Cancer
25
Testicular Cancer
3
Thyroid Cancer
2
Total:
79
Cardiovascular Conditions
 
Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm
1
Atrial Fibrillation
5
Brain Aneurysm
3
Heart Attack (Myocardial Infarction)
9
Hypertension
5
Peripheral Arterial Disease
1
Venous Thromboembolism
3
Total:
27
A full health snapshot condenses data of the relative likelihood of certain health conditions into an easy-to-read list. Details available by clicking the "full results" link.
A full health snapshot condenses data of the relative likelihood of certain health conditions into an easy-to-read list. Details available by clicking the "full results" link.
Insight into a particular condition (age-related macular degeneration here).
Insight into a particular condition (age-related macular degeneration here).
Further scientific details and explanations available through the tabs at the top.
Further scientific details and explanations available through the tabs at the top.

DeCODEme Health Tests

As the table above demonstrates, DeCODEme's extensive insight into over a million SNPs and its integration of a large number of studies with which to correlate to diseases and other health conditions means the service can give you great insight into your genetic likelihood of being born with or developing health issues.

The service claims that it offers higher clarity based on the greater number of SNPs tested for each health condition than its lower-priced competitors (23andMe and Navigenics, primarily). It also provides insight into health conditions like Alzheimer's Disease, testing for the APOE and CLU genes, that give you as accurate an insight into your likelihood of contracting Alzheimer's as any of the mainstream genetic tests out there.

DeCODEme also gives you some other related health insights, such as whether you would need a lower dose of warfarin than the average person, or whether taking high doses of statins (to reduce cholesterol) would result in a higher likelihood of developing myopathy.

I personally found insights into my relative risks of developing various types of cardiovascular/heart disease, and cancer, illuminating, because in both cases, a relatively high genetic predisposition can encourage you to make important lifestyle changes or to get tested regularly. If you know, for example, that you have a high risk of having a heart attack or developing breast cancer, wouldn't you change your diet and exercise habits, and get a mammography more often?

Across your chromosomes, DeCODEme will tell you your proportion of African, Asian, European, and Native American heritage.
Across your chromosomes, DeCODEme will tell you your proportion of African, Asian, European, and Native American heritage.
The "map of kinship" shows you on a geographical map based on genetic proximity with world populations. If you have DeCODEme friends, you'll see them on this map, too.
The "map of kinship" shows you on a geographical map based on genetic proximity with world populations. If you have DeCODEme friends, you'll see them on this map, too.

DeCODEme Ancestry Test

Similar to its competitors, but differing in presentation and possibly depth of insight, DeCODEme lets you know your ethnogenetic roots through both your patrilineal (father's father's father's...) line through your Y chromosome if you're male, and your matrilineal (mother's mother's mother's...) line through your mitochondrial DNA for both sexes.

You'll find out a few things:

  • your relative proportions of African, Asian, European and Native American blood, and an interesting map of your chromosomes color-coded with these 4 broad groups
  • detailed info into your maternal line (for both males and females) and paternal line (for males only), including your haplogroups (mitogroup and Y-group, respectively). It's pretty cool to imagine that your maternal line originated from a woman half-way around the world about 45,000 years ago, long before recorded history.
  • an interactive "map of kinship" that puts you on a geographic map, with your genetic proximity to specific populations around the world represented visually. 

The Gene Browser provides some very in-depth information on each chromosome, for the genetic geeks out there.
The Gene Browser provides some very in-depth information on each chromosome, for the genetic geeks out there.

DeCODEme community & friends

Provided you're willing to open yourself to the public and potential distant relatives, you have the option to connect with people and compare your genetic profiles, and to interact in some discussion threads.

There are currently 261 public friends, or people who have opted to allow any user to check their genetic profiles against. You'll get a measure of how much of your genetic code you share with that person, and if you're probably related to that person or not (I found out I share 18% of my SNPs with Craig Venter, and that we're probably not related). You can invite to be friends any other user of DeCODEme and see how much of your analyzed genetic makeup you share with them.

The forum section is currently pretty small but is the place to go to get more general information from other users and genetic testing enthusiasts.

Finally, DeCODEme allows you to dig into your genome, using its proprietary Genome Browser to get insight into particular genes or SNPs that you might read about and wonder how it applies to you. You can also download your genome data (for use with services like Promethease) for further analysis, or look up specific genes or SNPs if you want to know your specific genotype.

DeCODEme: worth the cost?

DeCODEme currently charges:

  • $1,100 for a complete scan
  • $500 for its cardio scan (genetic risk information on assorted cardiovascular conditions)
  • $500 for its cancer scan (the same for a number of tested cancers)

This is quite a bit more than what 23andMe charges ($99 for both health & ancestral data, but an additional $100/year to access your data and updates) or Navigenics (typically around $999 for its Health Compass, bought through a doctor, but prices can vary). The chief advantages over these lower-priced alternatives are:

  • A larger number of SNPs tested, so more clarity on your health risks for each of the tested conditions (for example, for prostate cancer, deCODEme tests for and analyzes 25 SNPs, while 23andMe does 6 and Navigenics 9)
  • DeCODEme tests for Alzheimer's risk, by checking both APOE and CLU, relatively rare for even specialized genetic tests.
  • You get access to your data and any updates without the need for a subscription. I just got two health updates about a month ago, even though I underwent DeCODEme's test a year ago.

Whether you think these advantages are worth the premium to you depends on how much added reassurance the broader SNP coverage will provide you (you can read a comparison review of both if you're still on the fence). While I don't know Navigenics personally, I have also used 23andMe and think it's a terrific service, especially considering its price.

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Comments 7 comments

K9keystrokes profile image

K9keystrokes 6 years ago from Northern, California

This is amazing. I learned a vast amount of information that is not only interesting but very sci-fi to me. I love that our technology has progressed to a point where a company/device like 'DecodeMe' can offer the next step in our medical awareness. I am fascinated by this hub! UP, Awesome & Tweeted!

K9


livelonger profile image

livelonger 6 years ago from San Francisco Author

Thank you so much, K9keystrokes. I agree; it's fascinating and gives us so much valuable knowledge of how to take care of ourselves and what to periodically test ourselves for.


Lyricallor profile image

Lyricallor 6 years ago from Croydon

Wow! This is so interesting. I have to share it with friends I know will find it amazing. Thanks for sharing!


lindsay 5 years ago

i heard on the google page that this company is going into administration...should i spend the money?


livelonger profile image

livelonger 5 years ago from San Francisco Author

lindsay: I don't think so. I saw the same, but it was from early in 2010. The company still seems to be in business, so maybe they found a way to solvency.


trua 4 years ago

Does anybody have DecodeME genetic results?


livelonger profile image

livelonger 4 years ago from San Francisco Author

trua: Yes, as I specified in my review above, I did get my genetic results from DecodeME.

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