23 May 2011

Evaluating 23andMe's DNA tests

DNA diviners: Valuable service or dangerous novelty? is an article by Joseph Hall published on May 20, 2011 at healthzone.ca.

Because the article is published on a health focused site health is the focus of the article. As with much journalism it looks for controversy and sets it up with quotes like "When you first see your data it says you’re at elevated risk. . . it’s in red and you’re automatically freaked out," by Dennis McCormac, a molecular biologist with the Ontario Genomics Institute. On the other side Shirley Wu, 23andMe’s science content manager claims "there’s no evidence that people are panicking over their results or being unduly traumatized."

The comment quoted I found most puzzling was attributed to Kerry Bowman, a medical ethicist at the University of Toronto, "people who receive elevated risk information have no way to respond, other than to follow healthy lifestyles and seek recommended medical screening." It seems to me that's a highly appropriate response.

Information in the article I'd not seen elsewhere is that 23andMe has 75,000 clients, about half of whom are most interest in the data for its genealogical value. The author appeared satisfied with the genealogically-relevant data supplied by the company.

Another Canadian review of a 23andMe test was just posted here

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