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VERIFY: Can you use an at-home breast cancer testing kit instead of going to the doctor?

As our Verify team learned, this test has its limits and relying on it could mean ignore hundreds of other gene mutations.


Can you use an at-home breast cancer testing kit instead of going to the doctor?


No, the kit only tests for a few specific BRCA gene mutations largely found in Ashkenazic Jews.


Dr. Emily Drabant Conley- Vice President, 23andme

Food and Drug Administration

Professor David Magnus- Stanford University


On March 7, the Food and Drug Administration announced the first approved at-home breast cancer test. The test checks for specific genes by analyzing your saliva.

Many people on social media are calling it reckless because women might stop seeing their doctors.

As our Verify team learned, this test has its limits. The company 23andme, known for digging into your ancestry, is selling the test for $199.

You spit into a tube and send the container in. A lab tests it. No doctor or prescription is needed.

The test looks for three specific BRCA gene mutations linked to a higher risk of breast cancer, but beware, doctors say. Those three mutations are only seen in a small percentage of the population.

"They are applicable primarily to people of Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry, so that's an important limitation of the test," 23andme Vice President Dr. Emily Drabant Conley said.

There are more than 1,000 other BRCA mutations the test does not look for. Critics worry that will confuse some users.

"People will misunderstand and believe that because they test negatively, that is, they do not test positive for any of the three BRCA genes that are being tested by the company, that that means they've got a clean bill of health," Professor David Magnus of Stanford University said.

"The test should not be used as a substitute for seeing your doctor for cancer screenings or counseling on genetic and lifestyle factors that can increase or decrease cancer risk," FDA's Donald Pierre said.


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