NYT editorial board warns about 23andMe DNA tests; 23andMe responds

23andMe is pushing back against a recent The New York Times editorial board opinion piece that warned customers to be careful about the company's health tests.

The editorial board argued that 23andMe's genetic risk health tests, such as its test that claims to screen for two genetic mutations linked to colorectal cancer, can't determine the actual risk of developing the diseases because it relies on "much simpler technology" than a healthcare facility does.

In addition, the op-ed compared 23andMe's breast cancer screen to "proofreading a document by looking at only a handful of letters," as the test only looks at parts of the genome where mutations are known to occur.

"[23andMe's tests] look for only a handful of errors that may or may not elevate your risk of developing the disease in question. And they don't factor into their final analysis other information, like family history. (Not everyone with a given mutation will go on to develop the disease). So the results will not tell you much about your actual health risks," the editorial board wrote in the Feb. 1 opinion piece.

In a response published by NYT four days later, 23andMe CEO and co-founder Anne Wojcicki defended the company's health tests, writing that although "23andMe is not a diagnostic test for individuals with a strong family history of disease, it is a powerful and accurate screening tool that allows people to learn about themselves and some of the most common clinically useful genetic conditions."

Ms. Wojcicki notes that the FDA, which approved the health tests, "sets a high bar for accuracy and user comprehension," and that the company has "spent years proving to the FDA, through detailed analytical testing, that our genetic health risk reports meet accuracy thresholds of 99 percent or higher."

For now, 23andMe is standing by its tests as a way to provide affordable, direct access to genetic information, particularly as most people do not meet the criteria for professional medical diagnostic testing.

"There are significant opportunities for all of us to have better healthcare, prevent disease and live better lives — but that comes from individuals actually being empowered to take more control of their health," Ms. Wojcicki concluded.

Click here to read the original NYT editorial board article.

Click here to read 23andMe and Ms. Wojcicki's response.

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