Women's Health

FDA Approves Historic First At-Home Breast Cancer Genetic Test

The test does come with drawbacks

Although the idea of an at-home genetic test is quite appealing, it does come with its drawbacks. The new test only covers 3 gene irregularities (out of 1,000 identified so far) that are associated with an increased risk of breast and ovarian cancer in women, and breast cancer in men. In addition, the mutations identified by the at-home test are found only in about 2% of women of Ashkenazi Jewish descent – a group of women who are likely to carry mutations in BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes anyway. “This authorization is incredibly valuable for those who might not be aware of their Ashkenazi Jewish descent or aren’t familiar with their family history of cancer,” said Wojcicki. “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,” she added.

Still, Katie Watson, a spokesperson for 23andME, stated that the effect of mutations in both BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes on an individual’s risk of developing breast, ovarian and other cancers is well understood among individuals of different ethnicities. So, even if a woman is not of Ashkenazi Jewish descent, she is still considered at increased risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer.