April 11, 2018

WHOSE DNA IS IT, ANYWAY? Consumers don’t need experts to interpret 23andMe genetic risk reports.

My company, 23andMe, recently received FDA authorization for the first ever direct-to-consumer genetic test for an inherited risk for cancer. Specifically, it tests for variants in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes known to significantly increase chances of developing breast and ovarian cancer. Historically, access to this type of testing has been gated by insurance companies and couldn’t be obtained without an order from a physician or genetic counselor. Making this kind of test directly available to consumers is a huge milestone in empowering people to be in control of their own health information.

I was disappointed to see that some of the initial reaction to this FDA authorization had a similar tone as the early reaction to at-home pregnancy tests. Some critics believe that people can’t handle this kind of information on their own, and that learning about a genetic cancer risk should be conveyed only by medical professionals.

I disagree.

Nannystaters withhold important information from people, and then ridicule them for making uninformed decisions — thus requiring further nannystatism.

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