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Know Your Family Medical History

Knowing your family history is important.

You inherit many things from your parents, including your height, eye color, and hair color. But did you know that you can also inherit an increased risk of developing certain diseases such as cancer and other diseases?

When talking about your genetic family history, the only family members who matter are your biological relatives. For example, your father is a biological first-degree relative his biological brother, your uncle is a biological second-degree relative. If he marries a woman, she becomes your aunt, but she is not a biological relative. If they have a child, however, that child is your first cousin and a biological third-degree relative.

Your family medical history provides powerful insights into your risk of developing certain diseases. Talking with your relatives about the diseases that are present in your family is very important, but some people are unsure about which family members to talk with, and what information to ask.

As you prepare to think about genetic testing, these are some tips that may help you gather your family medical history:

Be specific:


Ask your family members about the specific medical conditions that they and other relatives have had diagnosed. For example, if a family history of cancer is reported, ask about the exact type of cancer, who had it, and the age at which it was diagnosed.

If a family member has had a genetic test for cancer, are they willing to share the results with you?

Know your origins:


Certain diseases are more common in specific ethnic groups. Ask about your family’s roots. In particular, ask from which country your relatives originated. If you are adopted, you may be able to learn some information about your family medical history or ethnicity through your adoptive parents.

Branch out to your more distant relatives, including cousins, aunts, and uncles. Be sure to talk with your grandparents if they are living. They are likely to know a great deal about the family medical history going back several generations. Also, make sure to ask about both your mother and father’s sides of the family.

Document everything as best you can:


Document the information you learn and share it with other members of the family, including your own children and siblings.

Visit our 'Why people undergo genetic testing?' page, by clicking here, to watch a video to learn more about Genetic Cancer testing.

Genetic Cancer Screen Association is a leading Health Advocacy group in the fight against cancer! We are comprised of like-minded individuals, with one goal: To offer support, information and resources to Empower and Help Save Lives!

* The information provided is for general informational purposes only and not intended to be nor should be construed as medical or other advice.  You should consult your own doctor and/or an appropriate professional to determine what may be right for you.

Any discussion of medical management options is for general informational purposes only and does not constitute a recommendation. While genetic testing and medical society guidelines provide important and useful information, all medical management decisions should be made based on consultation between each patient and his or her healthcare professional.

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