Take Charge

You Can Test Cancer Risk from Home with Consumer DNA Kit

March 07, 2018

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By Sara Bondell

With the simple swab of your cheek, at-home genetic testing kits can find out where your ancestors lived and provide you with generic health information.

Now, one kit can do even more than that. It can detect increased risk of developing breast cancer.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has given approval to genetic testing company 23andMe to sell at-home kits that test for three specific BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations. The prescription-free test is the first to report if a woman is at an increased risk of developing breast and ovarian cancers, and if a man is at an increased risk for developing breast or prostate cancers.

While the test is accessible and affordable, the FDA and Moffitt’s genetic counselors agree there are limitations. Only a small percentage of Americans carry one of the mutations the kit tests for and it only detects three out of more than 1,000 known BRCA mutations.

Experts say the test should not be used as a substitute for seeing a doctor for cancer screenings or counseling on genetic factors.

"Patients are always best served to make health care decisions with the guidance of medical professionals," said Moffitt genetic counselor Carolyn Haskins. "Moffitt has five board certified genetic counselors who work with patients to discuss both the benefits and considerations of genetic testing related to inherited cancer risk."

23andMe also tests DNA for other health risks such as Celiac, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.