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Don’t Try This at Home
Jefferson Doctor Concerned about Home DNA Tests



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Recently, the FDA granted marketing authorization to 23andMe for a home DNA-testing kit that allows consumers to find out if they might have a mutation that puts them at higher risk of some types of cancer. Daniel P. Silver, MD, PhD, who leads the Breast Cancer Research Program at Jefferson Health’s Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center, has concerns.

Dr. Daniel Silver

Dr. Daniel Silver

“Though you can learn some things from a mail-in kit, it’s even more important to understand what these tests cannot tell you—and that could make a big difference to your health,” he says.

There are medical and personal implications of genetic test results that only a trained healthcare professional can explain, he says. In addition, 23andMe’s test looks for only three BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations—yet there are over 1,000 known mutations in these genes that can significantly raise the risk of several cancers. What’s more, there are many other genes besides BRCA1 and BRCA2 that can cause elevated cancer risks.

“Getting the all-clear from 23andMe may falsely assure some people that they do not need to have physical exams or regular cancer screening tests,” he says. “And for those who learn they do have one of the three mutations by the 23andMe test, what comes next?” Many will not know how to follow up potentially bad news.

Silver recommends talking to a healthcare professional if you think you need or want genetic testing.