Recently, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a new at-home test kit designed to identify genetic mutations that could raise the risk of developing breast, prostate and ovarian cancers. But many in the healthcare world have concerns about how individuals will interpret the results of these at-home tests.
The testing is part of a $199 kit from genetics testing company 23AndMe. The kit, which requires only a simple saliva sample, is primarily used to determine ancestry but includes an option to test for the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, mutations known to increase breast cancer risk.
While the science behind the kits is sound and results accurate, but the question of interpreting the results is what is concerning. Oncologists worry that the tests could be misinterpreted or falsely reassuring. Here is why:
Genetic testing is best done under the guidance of genetic counselors and physicians who can help patients prepare for such tests, interpret the results and discuss appropriate treatment options. Those who do opt for at-home genetics testing are advised not to make medical decisions based on the results.
It is encouraging that genetics testing is becoming more widely available and consumers can enjoy the convenience and accessibility of these tests. The concern comes from the handling of results. Testing should be viewed as a first step with both positive and negative results discussed with a physician who can analyze them and determine individual risk.
For questions on genetics testing and cancer risk, please contact us at 904-880-5522.