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Start Tracking your Family Medical History

Tracking your genealogy is a pass time for many people around the world. But how many of us track the health histories of our ancestors? Various illnesses have plagued our families for many generations. Diseases are known to be passed down through the family tree. Wouldn’t it be nice to know what illnesses your ancestors had? Did it ever pass through your mind when a family member was diagnosed with cancer or another illness what side of the family that it came from?

Medical Problems Should be Tracked and Shared

Your medical history can reveal as much about your risk of various illnesses, as costly high-tech gene-screening tests. When researchers at the Cleveland Clinic compared risks based on family history with those from personal genome screens that test for common DNA variations, the simple history flagged far more people who could benefit from stepped-up monitoring or tests for specific mutations related to breast, colon, or prostate cancer. "Most alarmingly, the genome screening missed all of the people at high risk for colon cancer," says Charis Eng, M.D., Ph.D., chair of the Clinic's Genome Medicine Institute.

Family Medical History

Create a Custom Event to Record your Medical History

Genealogy programs have two standard events, Cause of Death and Physical Description. They can help to record important family heritage facts. If your genealogy program allows you to create custom events, we encourage you to create one called “Medical History”. With this field, you can record the various known illnesses, both genetic and naturally occurring diseases, as well as significant illnesses.

Tips on How to take the time to Bring your Family Medical History up to Date

  1. Look for death certificates when tracing your family history, and record the cause of death for your ancestors.
  2. When you find a military record, record the physical description as found in the source.
  3. Ask your living family members about their health and record what you can about each person. Include all conditions, not just those you think are genetic.
  4. Be sure to gather information from both sides of your family, as breast and ovarian cancers are just as likely to be passed from your father’s side as from your mother’s.
If you have already started to trace your ancestors , or thinking about it, leave your future generations armed with a good medical history by starting to collect your family’s medical information today.