Viewpoint: Even as a doctor, I didn’t understand my 23andMe breast cancer risk analysis


Anyone can order 23andMe — with less than $150 and a small tube of saliva, you can learn much about your ancestry, where your family came from, and whom you might be related to. Even more than learning about your ancestry, you may be interested in the medical implications of the results — for example how well your body can handle certain drugs, or caffeine. Or whether you are at risk for allergies, heart disease… or even cancer.

The 23andMe test is not intentionally misleading. But on the other hand, it’s important to understand that knowledge itself also has limits. You’ll only find out BRCA gene risks if both of your parents are of Jewish ancestry. That explains why when I read my 23andMe results, there was nothing about BRCA —  my Swiss-French ancestry made it unlikely, as did the fact that I had no other high-risk factors. Still, I do have the BRCA mutation and did get breast cancer.

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However, even as a doctor, I did not completely grasp that when my 23andMe test came back as only a slightly increased risk for breast cancer, this would have no real meaning for me. So how can we expect the general consumer to fully understand this?

When dealing with direct-to-consumer tests that may help address and/or raise important health issues, we as consumers need to fully understand the fine print.

Read full, original post: What genetic testing didn’t tell me about my cancer

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