The Role of Family Medical History in Your Health
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.
- 2 or more first-degree relatives with the same or related cancers suggests an inherited risk. For example, if you have 2 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 2 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—US 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
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 February 23, 2015. Accessed February 23, 2015.
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 February 16, 2015. Accessed February 23, 2015.
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 January 6, 2015. Accessed February 23, 2015.
Heredity and arthritis. American College of Rheumatology website. Available at: http://www.rheumatology.org/practice/clinical/patients/diseases%5Fand%5Fconditions/heredity.asp. Updated May 2013. Accessed February 23, 2015.
Family cancer syndromes. American Cancer Society website. Available at: http://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancercauses/geneticsandcancer/heredity-and-cancer. Updated June 25, 2014. Accessed February 23, 2015.
Inheriting genetic conditions. Genetics Home Reference website. Available at: http://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/handbook/inheritance?show=all. Published February 16, 2015. Accessed February 23, 2015.
Is asthma inherited? Partners Healthcare website. Available at: http://www.asthma.partners.org/newfiles/BoFAChapter34.html. Accessed February 23, 2015.
Where to write for vital records. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/w2w.htm. Updated June 30, 2014. Accessed February 23, 2015.
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 February 23, 2015.
- Reviewer: Michael Woods, MD
- Review Date: 02/2015 -
- 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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