Family Health History FAQs

These questions were submitted to our experts during our spotlight on family health history.  For more information and resources on family health history, visit Genes & Your Health as well as our blog posts from September and October 2013. To ask your own questions, visit our Ask the Experts page.

I have tried in the past to get my family to talk about family health history, but my family members insist they don't want to know anything about their genetics.  They say that knowing what diseases they're going to get will only give them anxiety.  How can I explain that knowledgeand preventive measures can improve their health?  Are there any good resources available to get the family talking?

My husband and I adopted a baby girl several years ago. We know little about her birth parents, but can our family health history have an effect on her? My husband struggles with alcohol abuse and has been in and out of rehab programs. His father struggled with a similar problems with alcohol. I know that children of alcoholics often have trouble with addiction as well, but do my husband's difficulty with addiction put my daughter at risk of alcoholism? Or will she be alright because she is not a blood relative?

My wife and I adopted a son as a baby. He was taken away from his parents because of their difficulties with substance abuse. My wife and I drink alcohol only occasionally and always in moderation, and we have no family history of substance abuse. Is is still likely that my son will have the same struggles with addiction and substance abuse as his biological parents?

If my grandmother had breast cancer, but tested negative for BRCA mutations, is it still relevant to my family health history

Why should I bother taking a family health history when I can just have my DNA tested? Wouldn't that be more accurate anyway?

I am concerned that collecting a family health history will do more harm than good. What if I learn about a condition that can't be prevented? If I eat right and exercise without taking a family health history, isn't that good enough?

If my family health history is so important to my health, how can I protect my privacy? Can my employer ask for my family health history? Will my doctor keep it private like the rest of my medical record?

If a younger family member has been diagnosed with cancer, could older generations be at greater risk? Or only future ones?

If several of my family members have been diagnosed with different types of cancer (breast, colon, and lung), could my family be at risk for cancer in general or are we all at risk for each type specifically?


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