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What aspects of family health history affect disease risk?


Everyone’s family health history of disease is different. It is important to talk with other family members to gather information. Talking may help you and your family members identify key features in your family history that may point to increase risk for disease. These key features include:

  • Diseases that occur at an earlier age than expected (10 to 20 years before most people get the disease).
  • Disease in more than one close relative.
  • Disease that does not usually affect a certain gender (for example, breast cancer in a male).
  • Certain combinations of diseases within a family (for example, breast and ovarian cancer, or heart disease and diabetes).

If a family has one or more of these features, there is an increased familial or family health risk. Sometimes, a family may have an inherited form of disease that is passed on from generation to generation. In these families, the risk for disease may be very high and disease may occur at young ages and this is what your family history will help a health care professional to determine.

Last Updated: 03/14/2006
Last Reviewed: 04/18/2008