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You’ve most likely seen the ads on TV for home-kits like 23andMe that can tell you about your ancestry through saliva testing. 23andMe is now offering the ability to give you FDA approved health reports as well, and people are curious if these reports can determine if they carry the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, which increase the risk of breast and ovarian cancer.

WBIR 10 news reporter Leslie Ackerson put that test as part of the station’s focus on Breast Cancer Awareness during the month of October. Her results came back negative for BRCA1 and BRCA2, but there are more considerations that need to be taken into account.

Our Director of Clinical Genetics Services, Imelda Margulies, says, “My concern was a patient would look at a negative result and think oh good I’m off the hook…but I want patients to know that these type of direct consumer genetic testing may not give you the kind of information that guides medical management.”



Margulies explained that 23andMe kits don’t test for all genes and possible variants. They only test 3 variants out of the thousands of variants in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes known to increase breast and ovarian cancer. In addition, there are other predisposition breast cancer genes known to increase risk, with a panel of 20 or more genes that may be important for the client in a clinical genetic setting.

Another issue, is these specific gene mutations tested by 23andMe are only common in certain ethnicities.

“We go more in depth of terms of looking at the whole person and their family history and lifestyle, these factors that make a personalized medical plan,” Margulies said.

In-person testing with a doctor is more thorough and will cover all the bases and get you the most accurate information. “Our testing can be offered through saliva, but it’s best through blood,” Margulies said.

If you’re concerned about your risk factors for breast cancer, come talk to us. And if you’ve taken a home test kit that either shows a positive or negative result for BRCA1 or BRCA2, bring the results in and we can discuss the findings as well as other factors that may predispose you to breast cancer. Visit or call (865) 692-1610.