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Make Sense of It All

There's been a surge in need for genetic counselors as more people grapple with understanding results they received from direct-to-consumer genetic tests, the Atlantic reports.

23andMe has started selling health reports on 10 conditions to its customers about a year ago and, more recently, has begun offering a breast cancer risk test that examines three variants in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, it says, pointing out that other companies are following suit.

While the Atlantic notes that 23andMe CEO Anne Wojcicki has argued that people don't need help to understand their genetic risk results, it adds that some customers have wished to have more guidance when they learned, for instance, that they had an increased risk of developing Alzheimer's disease. Genetic counselors also worry that people may misinterpret their results.

The Atlantic adds that genetic counselors are also working out how to handle patients who are seeking advice on DTC genetic results, as they differ from traditional patients who have specific concerns. "We decided to ask 23andMe patients to bring us their top three questions," the University of California, San Diego's Taylor Berninger says of her and her colleagues. "That way they don't say, 'Here's a bunch of data. Tell me what it means!' It makes the visit less daunting for both of us."