23andMe Launches New Genetic Reports On Common Forms of Cancer

DNA by Sangharsh - Lohkare on Unsplash

Business Insider reported on March 6, 2024 – 23andMe Holding Co., a leading human genetics and biopharmaceutical company, released three new genetic reports for 23andMe+ members on breast, colorectal and prostate cancer. The reports are based on statistical models known as polygenetic risk scores (PRS), developed by 23andMe through its proprietary research database. These PRS reports calculate the likelihood of an individual developing one of these cancers, based on thousands of genetic variants associated with the disease.

Recent studies show a rise in younger people being diagnosed with cancer. A BMJ Oncology study revealed that between 1990 and 2019 cancer rates worldwide would have risen 79% in people under the age of 50. A 2023 American Cancer Society report found that 20 percent of colorectal cancer diagnosis in 2019 were in patients under age 55, almost twice the rate in 1995. Breast and colorectal cancers were among the top three cancers with the highest numbers of early-onset diagnoses in 2019.

“Using these reports to understand your likelihood to develop common cancers is an important step toward integrating genetics into healthcare,” said Noura Abul-Husn, Vice President of Genomic Health at 23andMe. “Today, there is increasing evidence and support for the use of PRS in personalized disease prevention, and certain medical specialities — including oncology — have already begun to adopt this to inform clinical decision-making. These new reports will help customers better understand their overall likelihood for developing these diseases, and enable them to work with their healthcare providers to implement prevention plans.”

The new reports released March 6, 2024, were developed by 23andMe scientists and clinical experts, using the Company’s massive database of genetic and health information contributed by consented research participants. 23andME now offers over 40 PRS reports, which utilize machine learning to analyze the complex interplay of thousands of genetic variants linked to specific conditions or diseases.

23andMe’s New Breast Cancer, Prostate Cancer, and Colorectal Cancer PRS Reports

The new 23andMe PRS reports focus on some of the most common cancers for which genetics are often a factor, noting where some customers may have an increased likelihood of developing these conditions relative to average. This is important because averages can mask large differences — some people have a higher chance of developing cancer and some a slightly lower chance, due to genetics and other factors. Importantly, healthy lifestyle habits can offset an increased genetic likelihood for developing these diseases, while routine screening can help with early detection.

On average, 1 in 8 females will develop breast cancer in their lifetime

On average, 1 In 8 males will develop prostate cancer in their lifetime

On average, 1 in 25 people will develop colorectal cancer in their lifetime

Depending on the type of cancer PRS report and individuals’ ethnicity, up to 5-to-30 percent of current 23andMe + Premium and 23andMe+ Total Health members will see an increased likelihood result.

“The hope is that this information will help more people, altering them to a chance of developing the disease that they might not have known otherwise,” write Abul-Husn.

There are limitations with these reports. Availability of the breast cancer and prostate cancer PRS reports is based on self-reported birth sex. These new reports do not diagnose the conditions, do not describe a person’s overall likelihood for developing the conditions, and they do not include all genetic variants, including those linked to hereditary cancer syndromes, that may be associated with these conditions.

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