23andMe DNA kit lets you test breast cancer risk from home

Randy Kelley
March 10, 2018

According to a release by the company, the authorization "allows 23andMe to provide customers, without a prescription, information on three genetic variants found on the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes known to be associated with higher risk for breast, ovarian and prostate cancer".

The Food and Drug Administration has approved the first at-home cancer risk test and it's made by 23andMe.

Genetic testing powerhouse 23andMe announced today that it's officially received the FDA go-ahead to launch a direct-to-consumer testing kit for genes linked to various forms of cancer.

"We've got some work to do to help people know what they are getting into", with the first approved home tests for genetic cancer risks - and the additional tests that are likely to follow, said Robert Cook-Deegan, a professor in the School for the Future of Innovation in Society at Arizona State University. An oncologist at Florida Hospital says these mutations are uncommon in the general population, which means that even if it comes back negative, it doesn't mean a person won't develop the disease.

"The test should not be used as a substitute for seeing your doctor for cancer screenings or counseling on genetic and lifestyle factors that can increase or decrease cancer risk", he said. Test results come in the form of a report sent to the user.

By analyzing DNA collected through a saliva sample, the test detects increased risk of developing breast, ovarian or prostate cancer. Their presence in any population is a risk factor and not a cancer diagnosis, and something discussed, along with other risk factors, with health care providers and genetic counselors. When they carry mistakes themselves, the fix isn't made, or it's made improperly. Overall, greater access to the information is "a good thing", he said, but dealing with the fallout "is just something we will have to get used to, as a culture".

However, this does not find all genes that cause cancer, the FDA cautioned.

"But it's important to understand that the majority of cancer is not hereditary, our test does not account for all genetic variants that can cause a higher risk of cancer, and people should continue with their recommended cancer screenings".

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