Allowing 23andMe To Test For BRCA May Do More Harm Than Good

The Food and Drug Administration announced this month it would allow genetic testing company 23andMe to resume direct-to-consumer testing for BRCA mutations.

One might assume I support the FDA’s decision, since I’m a BRCA2 mutation carrier and an awareness advocate. After all, identifying a BRCA mutation can help a person reduce their risk of ― or even potentially ward off ― a future cancer diagnosis.

But this test, which is part of 23AndMe’s broader screening test that includes genetic health risk reports on several other conditions, is not likely to do that. Not only are its results too limited to be helpful to most users, it also won’t help the communities that need it most. And it may not end up being cheaper than the existing alternatives anyway.