Why is a family medical history important to my health?

Carrie Bilicki
Oncology Nursing

In recent years, a number of genes related to inherited predisposition to complex disorders like cancer, diabetes, and heart disease have been identified. Certain families have an identifiable gene, a mutation (alteration), which places them at a significantly increased lifetime risk compared to the general population’s risk. By taking into consideration personal and family medical histories, a physician can identify patients and their families who would benefit from additional screening or other risk reducing options. In addition, a physician may suggest meeting with a genetic counselor for a hereditary risk assessment and possible genetic testing to help aid in medical management recommendations. 

Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine
In general, you should review your family history for three factors that can affect your health: (1) a history of cardiovascular disease or any condition that increases the risk of genetic predisposition to vascular diseases (such as too much low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, triglycerides, or homocysteine in the blood; high blood pressure; diabetes; or smoking); (2) a history of one particular type of cancer, such as breast cancer or colon cancer; and (3) a history of rare genetic illnesses such as Huntington's disease, Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, or even Alzheimer's disease. If more than one case of these diseases has occurred on one side of the family, you may have a genetic predisposition to that condition.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.