FDA Approves Consumer Cancer Risk Test

Odds are you’ve heard about 23andMe. They provide easy, at-home, saliva-based genetic testing that can help you identify any aspect of your genetics, from your ancestry to genetic risk factors.

Not only is it pretty fascinating to see the breakdown of your ancestral makeup, but it’s actually useful to learn about how your genetics work—like how well you are predisposed to metabolize caffeine. These direct-to-consumer tests are a big win for patients taking their health into their own hands. And that win just got bigger.

The FDA has officially approved 23andMe’s direct-to-consumer cancer risk test, the first approval of its kind. The test identifies mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, which have been widely publicized since Angelina Jolie brought the genes into the headlines a few years back. About 1 out of every 400 Americans carries one or both of these gene mutations, which are associated with an increased likelihood of developing breast, ovarian, pancreatic and prostate cancer. In the US, 5 to 10 percent of breast cancers are related to this gene mutation.

So what are these genes, anyways? The BRCA genes are the 2 genes that, when mutated, are highly associated with an increased likelihood of breast cancer. BRCA1 and BRCA2 are tumor suppressor genes, also known as a caretaker genes, and are directly responsible for repairing DNA. When these genes are mutated, it is more likely (but not definite) that tumors will show up.

Having the gene mutations doesn’t necessarily mean you will develop cancer, just as not having the genes doesn’t mean you won’t develop cancer. The genes are just a risk factor. The test helps you know if you are genetically predisposed to develop cancer, even if no one in your immediate family has it. In fact, a 2014 study showed that 50 percent of those with the BRCA gene mutations had no history of cancer in their family.

While knowing your risk factors may seem scary, it can open up conversation with your loved ones about how to act preventatively and help reduce anxiety. In the general population, there is a 7 percent chance of developing breast cancer. The mutations cause that number to increase to a 45 to 65 percent increased risk, depending on the gene mutation. Knowing your risk factors empowers you to take your health into your own hands. And thanks to their incredible technology, that’s exactly what at-home testing like 23andMe can help you do.

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45 comments

Marie W
Marie W17 days ago

Thank you very much.

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Jerome S
Jerome S5 months ago

thanks

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Jerome S
Jerome S5 months ago

thanks

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Jim V
Jim V5 months ago

thanks for sharing

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Jim V
Jim V5 months ago

thanks for sharing

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Ellie M
Ellie M6 months ago

ty

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Peggy B
Peggy B6 months ago

Interesting.

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Winn A
Winn A6 months ago

Noted

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Winn A
Winn A6 months ago

Thanks

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Danuta W
Danuta W6 months ago

Thanks for sharing.

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