Color Genomics BRCA Test: Is Color Test Good or Bad? Color Genomics, a California-based company, is offering a more affordable test for the BRCA genetic mutation which increases a carrier’s risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer.
How much is a Color Genomics BRCA genetic test? According to the company, the test (aka Color Test) will cost $249. By point of comparison, the current price tag for other BRCA tests by other companies ranges from a not-bad $475 to a prohibitive $4,000.
Aside from testing for BRCA1 and BRCA2, the Color Test also looks at 17 other genes which are associated with higher risks for breast or ovarian cancer.
The company’s website tells us more about what your testing fee covers:
- Comprehensive analysis of 19 genes (including BRCA1 and BRCA2) associated with an increased risk of breast or ovarian cancer.
- Analysis of your personal and family health history to inform your results.
- Consultation with a board-certified genetic counselor from Color and results shared with your healthcare provider, if desired.
- A physician designated by Color will review your information and order your test. If any questions arise, the physician will contact you.
So what does one do if s/he wants to be tested? Well, in the words of our gramma, it’s as easy-peasy as ABC.
The Color Test procedure goes like this: 1) purchase a kit online, 2) provide a saliva sample, and 3) wait for the results via email.
So apart from making their product more affordable, the guys at Color Genomics have also made it much more accessible. Imagine, you don’t have to go to a clinic or something!
Color Genomics CEO Elad Gil has this to say about why they’ve made their Color Test cheaper and easier:
We want to be able to democratize access. We want to be able to broaden access to this kind of testing because it is very important for women to able to understand their risk and work with their health care provider to create a plan around that.
You would think that making an otherwise expensive test more affordable is a good thing but some people are not pleased with the Color Genomics BRCA test.
Why? What displeases them about “democratized access”? Do these “objectors” have valid reasons or concerns?
At first, we thought they are being silly, but it turns out that they actually have valid concerns. We have collated and summarized what these critics are saying about the “cons” of the Color Test. Check it out:
Are the Color Test results reliable? From National Public Radio:
Still, some other geneticists, cancer researchers and women’s health advocates are alarmed by the new test. They question whether the results have been studied enough to provide women with reliable information. The test, they say, may produce ambiguous or misleading results that frighten women into taking drastic action that may be unnecessary, such as getting mastectomies or having their ovaries removed.
“I worry it will give women information that we really don’t know what it means — and that women will make very difficult choices that turn out to be incorrect,” says Frances Visco of the National Breast Cancer Coalition.
“If we have more women who believe they are at increased risk,” Visco says, “we will have more women removing healthy body parts. We really do not have enough information to base this kind of expansion of this kind of testing.”
Does the Color Test provide complete information? From the New York Times:
[E]xpanded testing could result in many more women being told they have mutations that cannot be classified as either dangerous or benign, leaving women in a state of limbo as to whether they have an increased risk of cancer.
“We have to be careful that we are not just increasing this group of worried-well who have incomplete information,” said Dr. Kenneth Offit, chief of the clinical genetics service at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.
Room for mis-interpretation of results. From CBS: Dr. Jennifer Litton, an oncologist at MD Anderson Cancer Center, told CBS News that proper counseling is essential to help women understand the results.
“I would be concerned if people misinterpret a negative result as being no risk, especially if they come from a family that has a lot of different cancers or young onset of cancer,” she said.
Ehh. We must say that we are not impressed with the above criticisms because they seem to underestimate the intelligence of patients. Truth be told, we find said criticisms a little bit insulting because they seem to suggest that women can be frightened into getting double mastectomies because of one simple test? Said criticisms make us uncomfortable because they seem to portray people as unthinking, uncritical idiots who would not seek for more information before they do anything as drastic as getting their ovaries removed.
Having said the above, we must say that we 110% agree with the next criticism of the Color Test which has something to do with how it is being marketed. Specifically, why is Color Genomics encouraging “everyone” to take the test rather than focusing its marketing efforts on the small segment of the population who are really at risk?
James Flanagan of Imperial College’s department of surgery and cancer hits the nail on the head for us (via wired.co.uk):
“They are only asking all women to do it because they will make more money from that rather than the small 1-2 percent of women for whom it would be worth it. No other arguments will justify it whether you use words like empowerment or democratising.”
“The small cost means more people can do it, but it would be nice to see guidelines from the company identifying who is at risk of having a mutation (individuals can do this with computer models such as BOADICEA) and only do the test if their chance of having a mutation is greater than 10 percent. This is the recommendation from the NICE guidelines in the UK… I think it would be great to offer all women the opportunity to use the computational model to assess their chances of having a mutation. That can happen for free. Then those that have a high chance can have the test.”
What say you, fellow HealthCareWatchers? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.
Color Genomics BRCA Test: Is Color Test Good or Bad? Posted 23 April 2015. Last updated on 23 April 2015.