Family health history is one tool that healthcare providers use to assess an individual’s risk for certain conditions.
Why is it important?
Knowing which health conditions affect certain family members, and at what ages, can help you understand whether you may be at increased risk and, if necessary, take steps to reduce that risk. Family health history can also provide information about the risk of passing on certain conditions to children when you are family planning.
Gather health information about your parents, grandparents, siblings, children, aunts and uncles on both sides of the family. If you can’t collect information about all your relatives, collect as much as you are able.
The more information you can provide the better. Even a partial family health history can provide insight.
How do I stay up to date with my family health history?
Remember that family health history is always changing, so it is important to update your health history if you gain new information. If you learn of a family member with a new diagnosis, inform your healthcare provider of this information.
Changes in family history may alter a previous risk assessment.
The following online tools and worksheets can help you collect and record key family health information. They also make it easier to share information with health providers and family members.
General Family Health History Tools
- The Sarnoff Center and IDPH: Family Health Keeper
- My Family Health History, a Tool from the Surgeon General
- March of Dimes: Family Health History Form
- My Family Health History App by Atlantic Health System, Inc.
Cancer Family History
While most cases of cancer are sporadic or related to environmental causes, hereditary cancers are linked to an inherited gene mutation. For more information about hereditary cancers, visit our hereditary cancer page.
Individuals with concerns about hereditary cancer can meet with a cancer genetics professional for a comprehensive risk assessment. The first step to a cancer risk assessment is obtaining a complete medical and family history. For more information about relevant family history that may warrant discussion with a cancer genetics specialist, please see our Assess Your Risk page.