At-home DNA test kit can trace your past, predict your future

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

PHOENIX -- We often hear of DNA being used to solve criminal cases, but it's also being used more and more to help people better manage their health.

23andMe is new service designed to help use your DNA to get a better look at your past and plan for your future. is one of a handful of companies offering mail-in DNA testing kits that allow you to learn more out everything from information about ancestry and genealogy to which diseases you are at risk of developing.

"We envision a time when people use their DNA to prioritize things in their lives." said Joanna Mountain, a DNA researcher from 23andMe.

That time is now. Americans are learning more than ever about their DNA -- the 23 chromosomes that determine everything about us from our eye and hair color to our intelligence to even our risk for heart disease or cancer.

The idea behind putting that information at our fingertips is to help people understand what DNA is and how it affects their daily lives.

"More than half of Americans, according to our survey, have a sense that DNA is connected to things like eye color and hair color and even that it could be valuable for managing health, but beyond that, Americans have a lot to learn," Mountain said.

In the last 10 years, the technology to uncover everything DNA tells us has developed by leaps and bounds, helping researchers bridge long-standing gaps between what causes diseases and how to treat them.

Requiring only a saliva sample -- no blood -- 23andMe at-home kits start at $99. In addition to invaluable health information, the test also can reveal some lighter, more trivial things as well, like if you're genetically predisposed to have a chin dimple or freckles, or whether you tend to favor sweet or savory foods.