5    Aug 20111 comment

Building your family tree? It could save your life.

A comprehensive family tree can ‘trump’ genetic testing for hereditary disease, say researchers.

Compiling or preparing an accurate family medical history appears to be of immense value in predicting family health risks, say researchers at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio.... And there I was, mocking my granny for believing in such piffle and pseudoscience.

In the study, detailed family histories were taken of 44 individuals, nine of whom had a family history of colon cancer. Quite astonishingly, a genetic swab test deemed all nine participants were low-risk, although further tests showed that five of the nine carried a gene mutation linked to the cancer.

I’m sure we all have a vague idea of our own family risk factors, but perhaps investing some time to compile a comprehensive record may be a worthwhile move. Obviously, it is best to span more than a couple of generations, which may be time-consuming but think of the benefits!

If you are admitted to the hospital, a doctor will take your full medical history as part of the admitting process. This important procedure happens quickly and depends completely on a patient’s ability to recall a detailed family medical history during an already intense situation.. Therefore, if you have an already prepared family history to give your healthcare provider - including family illnesses, conditions, diseases - the family history interview procedure will not only go more quickly but will also likely provide many more important details. A win-win for the hospital and for your diagnosis.

According to Dr Eng of the Cleveland Clinic, we needn’t spend an inordinate amount of time researching our ancestors to construct a beneficial record either. Even two or three generations are useful from a diagnostic standpoint. Looking for patterns in your family’s health history is likely to flag certain high-risk afflictions, but remember that many of diseases may be due to environmental causes.

Compiling a record of family lifestyle factors in conjunction with medical history should also be a priority. After all, it’s all very well knowing which conditions led to the death of your relatives, but what about the causal factors? Sure, Uncle Ronnie died from heart failure but didn’t he live constantly on the television-refrigerator axis?

Either way, the importance of family medical history has now been reaffirmed, and I welcome the new research. The time spent painstakingly updating the causes of death on my family tree is most definitely vindicated.

It is easy to add causes of death and lifestyle facts to your MyHeritage tree. Simply click on any profile in your tree and add a fact in the left hand pane.

Click on the image to see the entire tree


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Comments (1) Trackbacks (1)
  1. Well done James !

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