More Big News From 23andMe

By Ashlee Peck

Less than a week after announcing major updates to their Ancestry Composition product, 23andMe is back in the headlines with more big news, this time with updates to their Health kit. We’ve got the details.

23andMe Breast Cancer BRCA1 BRCA2
A eppendorf containing a sample used in analytical chemistry and DNA extraction awaiting testing in a laboratory

This morning 23andMe released that they have received the first-ever FDA authorization for a direct-to-consumer genetic test for cancer risk for their BRCA1/BRCA2 (Selected Variants) report. The report covers three variants in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes associated with increased risk for breast, ovarian, and prostate cancer. These variants are most common in people of Ashkenazi Jewish descent.

The company strongly believes that their consumers have the right to know about their risk, if they choose. And this information isn’t just of benefit to women — men with one of the BRCA1 or BRCA2 variants we test for are at higher risk for male breast cancer, and may also have a higher risk of certain other cancers. Men who find out they have one of the tested BRCA variants can also share this information with female relatives who might benefit from knowing about their potential genetic risk.

Recent studies report that many women are simply going unscreened for breast cancer, as they reported being unaware of their ancestry or a family history of cancer.

In their press release, 23andMe does stress that the test should not be used to diagnose cancer or to determine your risk of developing cancer:

Let’s be clear, 23andMe’s new report, once it’s available, does not diagnose cancer and cannot rule out your chances of getting cancer. It doesn’t cover most of the thousands of BRCA1 and BRCA2 variants associated with increased cancer risk, variants in other genes associated with hereditary cancer, or non-genetic factors such as environment and lifestyle. It should not be used on its own to make medical decisions. Results should be confirmed with a healthcare provider in a clinical setting before taking any medical action. 23andMe’s BRCA1/BRCA2 report is not going to be helpful for everyone, but it’s a step in the right direction. We already know of customers who benefited from this information.

If you’d like to read the full blog announcing this major update, head over to the 23andMe blog.