A ‘New York Times’ Writer Took Three Different Genetic Tests And Received Three Different Results


In The New York Times, novelist and current Columbia University bioethics grad student Kira Piekoff reports on using three different genetic tests, and ending up with three very different results.

As shown in the table below, 23andMe and Genetic Testing Laboratories gave Kira widely varying odds for psoriasis and rheumatoid arthritis, with 23andMe warning that she was at the greatest risk for these ailments later in life, and GTL showing that, among the 25 diseases tested, she was least at risk for psoriasis and rheumatoid arthritis.

23andMe Genetic Testing Laboratories Pathway Genomics
Cost $99 $285 $399
Testing Breadth >240 Disease Risks 25 Disease Risks 24 Disease Risks
Kira Peikoff’s Reported Risk:  -Psoriasis 20.2% 2.0% N/A
-Rheumatoid Arthritis 8.2% 2.6% N/A
-Coronary Heart Disease 26-29% 26-29% “Above Average Risk”
-Type 2 Diabetes 15.7%, “Decreased Risk” 10.3%, “Medium Risk” N/A

Throughout her article, Kira seems to stress the point that genetic testing is entertaining at best, and dangerously misleading in a worst-case scenario. Her Columbia professor Dr. Robert Klitzman tells her, “Imagine if you took a book and you only looked at the first letter of every other page. You’re missing 99.9 percent of the letters that make the genome. The information is going to be limited.”

23andMe is currently trying to convince regulators that it’s home saliva-test is safe, valid and not in violation of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. Although a public petition was launched in November to “overrule” the FDA’s warning letter to 23andMe, the White House website reports that the petition has expired “because it failed to meet the signature threshold” of 100,000 signees by Dec. 25.