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Might Learn Something, But Probably Not

More people will soon be able to take a genetic test to see whether they carry variants within the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes that can increase their risk of breast or ovarian cancer, but FiveThirtyEight reports that most people who take the test won't learn much from it.

23andMe recently got the OK from the US Food and Drug Administration to sell its direct-to-consumer genetic health report on three BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations that can increase cancer risk. But as GenomeWeb has pointed out, the three mutations included in this test are only found in about 2.5 percent of people of Ashkenazi Jewish backgrounds and only in up to 0.1 percent of individuals from other ethnic groups. Most people who are diagnosed with breast cancer don't have these variants, FiveThirtyEight adds.

It comes down to, FiveThirtyEight says, a "clash of philosophies" between those who say people are entitled to their genetic data and those who say the tests aren't useful for everyone and could do more harm than good.

"Ultimately," FiveThirtyEight writes, "it's up to consumers to decide whether the test will be useful for them."