This post will be updated as new details become available.
Actually, AncestryHealth is two products, based on different DNA tests, giving different amounts of information, and with different pricing models. Both products are independent from the genealogy testing that Ancestry offers.
The Core level of AncestryHealth is based on microarray tests, which are the type of autosomal DNA testing we use for genealogy. Those tests examine about 700,000 spots in our genomes that are known to vary among individuals. That’s enough genetic information to suggest family relationships—which is why they’re so popular among genealogists—and to identify many biomedical traits. It’s not a complete picture of the genome, though.
The Core service includes reports for nine health conditions, listed below, and eight wellness traits, like lactose tolerance.
Health Conditions in the AncestryHealth Core
- Lynch Syndrome (linked to colon and uterine cancers)
- Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer
- Familial Hypercholesterolemia
- Hereditary Hemochromatosis
- Hereditary Thrombophilia
- Cystic Fibrosis Carrier Status
- Tay-Sachs Disease Carrier Status
- Sickle-cell Anemia Carrier Status
All reports are reviewed by an independent network of physicians and genetic counselors and will include references to the biomedical literature. Reports may be supplemented by educational webinars as well as guidelines to mitigate risk for individuals with increased chances of developing certain diseases.
In addition to the reports, Core also includes a family health history tool that customers can use to track conditions that run in their families. Family health histories can be downloaded to be shared with your personal physicians. These downloadable reports identify your family members only be relationship to you rather than their names to protect their privacy.
The entire interface was designed with ease of navigation and mobile users in mind. The reports list key takeaways for ease of interpretation and are geared for you to share with your physician. The educational materials include webinars and access to genetic counselors when warranted, and the family health history tools had features to minimize typing on mobile devices.
Access to Core is overseen by an independent clinician network of physicians and genetic counselors who will approve the tests. If, for example, you’ve had a bone marrow transplant, you may not be approved (because your results would be those of the donor).
If you’ve already done an autosomal DNA test at Ancestry, you can add AncestryHealth Core for a one-time cost of $49. And if you did an earlier version of the AncestryDNA test, they will reprocess your stored sample as part of that $49 fee. (No, reprocessed data will not be incorporated into your AncestryDNA matching data.)
For the time being, those of us who registered multiple DNA kits within our accounts will only be able to order AncestryHealth for the primary kit on the account to protect the genetic privacy of the other individuals. (The ability to register multiple kits in an account dates from before mid-2017.)
The fine print says the tests are not approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and are not diagnostic. AncestryHealth Core is not available in New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island, or outside the USA. The company is working to obtain regulatory approvals in other countries.
AncestryHealth Plus will include all of the features of Core in addition to new reports every few months, updates to existing reports based on new science, and—most exciting of all—next-generation sequencing starting in early 2020.
Next generation sequencing, or NGS, is a catch-all term for several modern methods to quickly sequence most or all of an entire genome. Rather than sampling only about 700,000 so-called “markers” in your DNA, it looks at millions of them. Thus, NGS can potentially find many more traits of interest than microarrays.
The quality of NGS data depends on something called “coverage”, that is, the number of passes or “reads” the method makes over an average marker position. The more the better; 30–50x coverage is recommended for whole genome sequencing. It was unclear at the time this blog was written what the coverage will be of AncestryHealth Plus’s next-gen sequencing.
The raw NGS data will be available to customers.
Plus is offered as part of a subscription plan, with an initial $49 fee and a subscription of $49 for 6 months. It’s unclear to me whether there are additional charges or whether one could conceivably cancel the membership after 6 months and get NGS data for only $98.
The Plus level will only be offered to existing AncestryDNA customers, with the same restrictions as Core.
Um, Hello? Remember Genealogy?
As a genealogist, you may be asking yourself how this benefits your family history research. That’s a great question! No, you won’t be able to see which of your matches has done AncestryHealth, and you won’t be able to see what traits they carry. The same goes for your own medical privacy, of course; no one else will be able to access your health results should you decide to go this route.
For genealogists, the benefit will be in the potential increase to the matching database. Recall that new Core customers will need to do an AncestryDNA test first, and Plus members will have the option of being put into the matching database, too. More matches are always a good thing!