Scientists find the hidden pitfalls of at-home genetic tests for cancer risk

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The Problem with Just Relying on a Test Kit

A lot of women are taking at-home DNA tests to find out if they’re at risk for breast cancer.

These tests look at your genes and tell you if you have something known as a BRCA variant, which is linked to a higher chance of getting breast cancer.

When you find out you have this, it can be really scary. Some tests even say you could have up to an 80% chance of getting the disease!

But researchers from the University of Exeter are saying, “Hold on a minute!” These tests could be misleading. They’re not always giving the full picture because they don’t consider family history.

This means some women are going through stressful and sometimes unnecessary surgeries, just because they think they’re at high risk.

The Importance of Family History

Until recently, women usually took this kind of test at a doctor’s office, often because they already had symptoms or someone in their family had breast cancer.

Because of that, those who tested positive were already more likely to get the disease.

But now, lots of people are just buying these tests online. They take them without really knowing what the results mean. So, the researchers wanted to find out how accurate these tests are for the average person.

They looked at data from over 454,000 people in the UK who were between 40 and 69 years old. What they found was eye-opening:

The risk of getting breast cancer by age 60 was actually less than 20% for most women with a BRCA variant, unless they also had a close relative with the disease.

How Celebrities Influence Our Choices

This topic has gotten a lot of attention, especially after actress Angelina Jolie openly talked about her own genetic test and surgery. Because of her story, many women decided to get surgery too.

While that might be the right choice for some, Dr. Leigh Jackson, who led the study, says we need to be careful. “Finding out you’re at risk can be really scary,” he says.

“But an 80% risk and a 20% risk are not the same. If you’re thinking about having a major surgery like this, you need all the facts.”

Takeaway: Consult a Doctor for a Complete Picture

The researchers are urging anyone who gets these test results to talk to their doctor.

Your doctor can help you understand your real risk by considering other factors, like whether your mom, sister, or grandma had breast cancer.

This isn’t just about breast cancer, by the way. The researchers found the same kind of issue with tests for Lynch syndrome, which is linked to a higher risk of colon cancer.

What’s the bottom line? These at-home tests are not bad; they just shouldn’t be the only thing you rely on.

If you find out you’re at risk for something serious, take the time to get the whole picture. That way, you can make the best choice for you.

If you care about cancer, please read studies about Researchers find a new cause of cancer and findings of Scientists find new way to treat deadly prostate cancer.

about prostate cancer, please read studies about diet that could drive growth of prostate cancer, and enlarged prostate may actually lower a man’s odds for cancer.

The research findings can be found in eClinicalMedicine.

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