Here are the limitations, caveats, and fine print that everyone needs to know about regarding the latest FDA approved 23andMe offering:
- The test only detects 3 out of more than 1000 BRCA mutations. BRCA1/BRCA2 breast cancer gene mutations are most common in Ashkenazi Jewish populations. This test does not benefit the general population.
- A negative result does NOT rule out the possibility of other BRCA mutations which may pose an increased risk in cancer.
- Not all cancers are BRCA mutation driven or hereditary. Some cancers develop sporadically. A negative result does NOT mean one has no risk for developing cancer.
- People who test positive should seek the guidance of a medical professional and understand that they will most likely be retested in a supervised, clinical setting.
- A positive test result may lead to fear, anxiety, and distress.
- Patients and clinicians should NOT make medical decisions, such as opting for prophylactic surgery or anti-hormone therapy, based on 23andMe test results.
- This test is NOT a substitute for consulting with your doctor for cancer screenings, genetic counseling, or managing lifestyle factors that may impact one’s cancer risk.
- Anyone with a strong family history of cancer should seek professional medical guidance for appropriate management.
The test may only benefit a very small population of people, specifically those of Ashkenazi Jewish descent, however it is being marketed and offered to the general public. People will purchase the test for a variety of reasons. Regardless of what their reasons are, who the test benefits (or doesn’t), all of the people who submit their saliva samples for testing will have their data and results utilized in one way or another or sold to third party vendors for commercial purposes. Any improvements in company services, commercial, or research advancements that happen as a consequence of using customer data offers zero recognition or compensation for their “participation”. In the end, who really gets the most benefit?