23andMe, the DNA testing company that can tell you your ethnic ancestry based on your DNA, has been cleared by the FDA to market genetic tests directly to consumers that can inform them about their risk for 10 diseases or conditions. These are the first direct-to-consumer tests that provide information on whether an individual has a predisposition to certain diseases.
People send in a sample of saliva and receive an email six to eight weeks later that lets them know their private genetic report is available on-line. The test service is called Personal Genome Service Genetic Health Risk (GHR). 23andMe says that the information will allow individuals to make informed decisions about their lifestyle choice and help with discussions with health-care providers based on the genetic factors found by the test.
“The key is that these genetic factors signal increased risk and do not guarantee disease will develop,” said Peter Hulick, MD, Medical Director of the Center for Personalized Medicine and Center for Medical Genetics at NorthShore University HealthSystem in Illinois. “They can guide medical decision making, but it is important that individuals who pursue this testing share this information with their health-care provider.”
While certain genetic variants may be found by the test, there are many factors in the environment and in a person’s lifestyle choices that contribute to the development of a health condition. “This information needs to be placed into the context of other factors. Risk is like a giant jigsaw puzzle and you try to uncover as many pieces as possible so one can make an informed decision,” Hulick said in an email to Drug Topics.
Up next: What the data can actually tell you