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Assessment: Making a Medical Family Tree

To make your medical family tree, you need key pieces of information about your relatives. You should research at least as far back as your grandparents because a genetic predisposition to a certain disease may be masked in one generation but nevertheless passed on to succeeding generations. Key facts include date of birth and, if the person is deceased, cause of death and the age at which it occurred. If possible, you should find out about lifestyle factors, such as smoking, body weight, alcohol consumption, and exercise.

Example of a family tree

A family tree enables you to detect disease trends, but you will need your doctor’s help to interpret your risk of disease. This example assumes that you are female and were born in 1985. From this record, the doctor would conclude that you and your siblings are at risk of polyps in the colon, which may lead to colorectal cancer, and diabetes mellitus. If you are planning to have a child, you should look at both your own and your partner’s family trees to assess possible health risks for the child.

From the 2010 revision of the Complete Home Medical Guide © Dorling Kindersley Limited.

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