Sleuthing Your Family Medical History
- Brothers and sisters
How to Create a Family Medical Tree
- Date of birth
- Date of death
- Cause of death
- Major illnesses or surgeries
- Date when major illness was diagnosed
- Aunts and uncles
- Nieces and nephews
Get the Details
Find out About Health Habits
Organize the Information on Paper
What Does It All Mean?
- The more generations an illness occurs in your family, the more at risk you are.
- Two or more first-degree relatives with the same or related cancers suggests an inherited risk. For example, if you have two first-degree relatives with ovarian cancer, you have a greater chance of getting it yourself. Keep in mind breast, ovarian, uterine, and colon cancers are genetically related.
- The younger someone is when a disease develops, the more likely heredity played a role. If your mother or sister developed breast cancer before menopause, your lifetime risk is higher than it is for other women.
- A disease that strikes two or more relatives at about the same age is likely to be strongly influenced by heredity.
- Clustering of cases of the same disease on one side of the family more strongly suggests a genetic influence than if a similar number of cases are scattered on both sides of the family.
What If You Are at Risk?
My Family Health Portrait, United States Department of Health and Human Services https://familyhistory.hhs.gov
National Human Genome Research Institute http://www.genome.gov
Health Canada http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca
Public Health Agency of Canada http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca
Accessing deceased patient records—FAQ. Journal of AHIMA website. Available at: http://journal.ahima.org/2011/03/23/accessing-deceased-patient-health-records-faq/. Published March 23, 2011. Accessed March 7, 2013.
Alzheimer's disease genetics fact sheet. National Institute on Aging website. Available at: http://www.nia.nih.gov/alzheimers/publication/alzheimers-disease-genetics-fact-sheet. Updated April 9, 2012. Accessed March 7, 2013.
Beery TA, Williams JK Risk reduction and health promotion behaviors following genetic testing for adult-onset disorders. Genet Test. 2007;11:111-123.
DNA banking. Genetics Home Reference website. Available at: http://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/glossary=dnabanking. Published March 4, 2013. Accessed March 7, 2013.
Family history and heart disease, stroke. American Heart Association website. Available at: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/More/MyHeartandStrokeNews/Family-History-and-Heart-Disease-Stroke%5FUCM%5F442849%5FArticle.jsp. Updated February 12, 2013. Accessed March 7, 2013.
Heredity and arthritis. American College of Rheumatology website. Available at: http://www.rheumatology.org/practice/clinical/patients/diseases%5Fand%5Fconditions/heredity.asp. Updated February 2012. Accessed March 7, 2013.
Heredity and cancer. American Cancer Society website. Available at: http://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancercauses/geneticsandcancer/heredity-and-cancer. Updated January 25, 2013. Accessed March 7, 2013.
Inheriting genetic conditions. Genetics Home Reference website. Available at: http://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/handbook/inheritance?show=all#riskassessment. Published March 4, 2013. Accessed March 7, 2013.
Is asthma inherited? Partners Healthcare website. Available at: http://www.asthma.partners.org/newfiles/BoFAChapter34.html. Accessed March 7, 2013.
Know your family medical tree. The Ohio State University website. Available at: http://shs.osu.edu/articles/national-roots-branches-month-know-your-family-medical-tree/. Accessed March 7, 2013.
Where to write for vital records. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/w2w.htm. Updated June 27, 2012. Accessed March 7, 2013.
Wolf SM, Kahn JP; Working Group on Genetic Testing in Disability Insurance. Genetic testing and the future of disability insurance: ethics, law & policy [review]. J Law Med Ethics. 2007;35(suppl 2):6-32.
Your medical records. US Department of Health and Human Services website. Available at: http://www.hhs.gov/ocr/privacy/hipaa/understanding/consumers/medicalrecords.html. Accessed March 7, 2013.
- Reviewer: Brian Randall, MD
- Review Date: 03/2013 -
- Update Date: 03/07/2013 -
This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.
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