Thursday, September 17, 2009

Important points for collecting family medical history

It's time once again to be thinking about collecting family medical history. A Reuters article out today provides a good example. In reference to family history it says, "Men are twice as likely to have prostate cancer when a brother, father or uncle have had the disease. If they have two or more first-degree relatives with the disease. they are four times more likely to be diagnosed."

Another article, on Courant.com, discusses "Why and How to put together a Family Medical History." The article suggest how far back in the family tree you might want to go, and indicates the importance of knowing not only what a family member died of, but what other conditions they had during their lifetime:

"It's not just about death. The age at death and the ailment that caused or immediately preceded death is the obvious information to record for each of your deceased relatives. But it may not be as important as information about earlier diseases or conditions. Did your father, who died in his 80s of heart failure, have a previous bout with colon cancer or experience high blood pressure for most of his adult life? Make sure you ask about any chronic or previous problems."

"Age is key," it says. You will also want to record the age at which medical conditions arose, if that information is available. "Early" means different things for different diseases, but generally, the younger a person is when a disease rears its head, the more likely it is to have a genetic component. Having two first-degree relatives (a mother, daughter, or sister) diagnosed with breast cancer before age 50, for example, is one of the red flags that may mean you should be tested for specific mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes.

In all, the article provides eight practical tips that are definitely worth reviewing.

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