There Is A BRCA Test Available For Less Than $100

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When Angelina Jolie announced she had a preventive double mastectomy in 2013, the world collectively gasped. What is the BRCA gene? Is it contagious? Should I start planning a funeral for my boobs? The masses rushed to get more information about the BRCA mutation.

More recently, Bachelor fans followed Lesley Murphy, a season 17 alum, undergo a preventive double mastectomy and then breast reconstruction surgery after testing positive for the BRCA2 gene mutation at the age of 29. (For the record, Lesley took the surgeries like a champ and threw herself a "Ta-ta to the tatas" party ahead of her surgeries.)

While these two cases were certainly emotional, increased public awareness has led to positive change. Since 2013, more women than ever are getting tested for the BRCA gene mutation, dubbed the Angelina Jolie effect. More importantly, the test that once cost anywhere from $475 to $4,000 is now available for less than $100.

Yes, Color's BRCA Test, a physician-ordered, at-home genetic test, now available for just $99. That is probably cheaper than those new boots you've been eying, and potentially more life-altering.

What Is Color's $99 BRCA Test?

Color's $99 BRCA Test uses a saliva sample to analyze whether a person has the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genetic mutations. Aside from submitting the sample itself, everything is done online, from ordering to receiving results. Color also provides a board-certified genetic counselor to explain results and offer insights on next steps.

Rest assured, the comparatively low cost of the test is not a reflection of its accuracy. The company boasts that their tests detected the mutations with greater than 99 percent accuracy in a blind study.

What Are The BRCA Genes?

Here is very simplified explanation of what the BRCA genes are.

BRCA1 and BRCA2 are genes that produce tumor suppressor proteins that help repair damaged DNA. (So, we all have and need these BRCA genes.)

If the gene is mutated — as in, not in its most perfect form — it may not function properly, and thus may not properly fix damaged DNA. Certain inherited mutations of the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes increase the risk of female breast and ovarian cancers.

To be exact, scientists currently estimate 55 to 65 percent of women who inherit the BRCA1 mutation and 45 percent of women who inherit the BRCA2 mutation will develop breast cancer by age 70, compared to about 12 percent of women in the general population who will likely develop breast cancer at some point in their lives.

For ovarian cancer, about 1.3 percent of women in the general population will likely develop cancer sometime during their lives, compared to 39 percent (BRCA1 mutation) and 11 to 17 percent (BRCA2 mutation) who will likely develop ovarian cancer by age 70.

That means that not everyone who has the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation will definitely develop cancer.

Is a Positive Result a Cancer Diagnosis?

It is very important to note that the Color BRCA Test does NOT diagnose cancer or any other affliction. As with any test for the BRCA gene, a positive result indicates there is a mutation in the gene that increases risk for developing hereditary breast, ovarian or other cancers over the course of a patient's lifetime. It does not guarantee that cancer will develop or indicate that cancer already has developed.

Likewise, a negative result for the BRCA gene mutation does not guarantee that a person will never get cancer; it just means that it is less likely for that person to develop hereditary breast, ovarian or other cancers than someone with the gene mutation. Of course, it is still possible for a person who tests negative for the BRCA gene mutation to develop a hereditary (or non-hereditary) cancer over the course of a lifetime, so doctor's visits and general bodily awareness are still key.

The BRCA test is a test that offers a knowledge of your body's chemistry, and what you choose to do with that knowledge is up to you. Regardless of the test results, this can be an emotional process. If you do take the test, we recommend discussing your results with a medical professional. Whether you test positive for the BRCA gene mutation or negative, there is a path forward.

Who Should Take a BRCA Gene Test?

A small percentage of people will test positive for the BRCA gene mutation, so not everyone needs to rush to get the test done. In fact, generally BRCA testing is recommended only for people with a high risk of having the mutation. Specifically, that includes people with:

  • A family member with the BRCA gene mutation
  • A personal history of breast cancer before age 45
  • A personal history of breast cancer at any age and a family member diagnosed with breast cancer before age 50
  • A personal history of breast cancer and two+ family members diagnosed with breast, pancreatic and/or aggressive prostate cancer at any age
  • A personal history of breast or pancreatic cancer and Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry
  • A personal history of triple negative breast cancer before age 60
  • A personal or family history of ovarian cancer
  • A personal or family history of male breast cancer
  • A family member diagnosed with breast cancer before age 45

We can't really say whether anyone should or should not get genetic testing, but if you meet any of the above criteria and would like to consider the BRCA test, discuss your options with your physician.