23andMe founder Anne Wojcicki: No need for experts to interpret direct-to-consumer breast and ovarian cancer tests

brca genetic testing

My company, 23andMe, recently received FDA authorization for the first ever direct-to-consumer genetic test for an inherited risk for cancer. Specifically, it tests for variants in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes known to significantly increase chances of developing breast and ovarian cancer.

Making this kind of test directly available to consumers is a huge milestone in empowering people to be in control of their own health information.

I was disappointed to see that some of the initial reaction to this FDA authorization had a similar tone as the early reaction to at-home pregnancy tests. Some critics believe that people can’t handle this kind of information on their own, and that learning about a genetic cancer risk should be conveyed only by medical professionals.

Related article:  In order to thrive, precision medicine requires ‘novel business solutions’

I disagree.

We know from our research and the work of others that you don’t have to be an expert to handle genetic health risk information. People do not base rash or ill-informed decisions about their health on it.

[A] number of our customers who learned that they carry potentially harmful BRCA-related genetic variants never knew they were at risk for breast or ovarian cancer and would never have been tested for them through the traditional system. For some of these people, the information they got from a direct-to-consumer genetic test truly saved their lives.

Read full, original post: Consumers don’t need experts to interpret 23andMe genetic risk reports

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