When people think about family traits being passed down from generation to generation, they are more likely to think of Grandpa's piercing blue eyes or Great Grandma Myrtle's long tapering fingers which were ideal for piano playing. But did you know that your mother's struggle with diabetes may also become yours? Here are some conditions which are known to or are suspected of running in families.
First, it's important to point out that family members sharing health problems may not necessarily be related to genetics alone. There are a variety of environmental and habitual factors which must be considered in the equation. For example, a family of Type 2 diabetics may develop this condition because of shared eating habits and obesity. They may not have a genetic predisposition at all, but have simply developed this condition because of their environment.
-- Breast cancer is one of several types of the disease which may have a genetic component. Two genes called Breast Cancer Gene 1 and Breast Cancer Gene 2 have been identified as being able to be passed along, especially on the female side of families. All women should have regular breast exams, of course, but if you have a close female relative who has suffered from the disease, consult with your physician to find out if there is more you should be doing to prevent the disease.
-- Another cancer with a possible familial predisposition component is ovarian cancer. If a close female relative has had this type of cancer, your risk of developing it increases to 5%. This may seem like a low percentage, but it's not worth taking the risk when prevention measures are simple. Have regular pap smears.
-- Certain types of skin cancer are deadly, particularly melanomas. Left untreated, a malignancy can metastasize rapidly. The tendency to develop this type of cancer knows no sexual bounds: it affects men and women alike. Knowing that your parent or grandparent has had a melanoma is great advantage because you can be on the lookout for problems with your own skin.
If you have lots of moles, have noticed a change in their shape or if they are causing you pain, contact a doctor immediately. Even if you have no reason for suspicion, it's best to be checked regularly by a professional if you have a family history.
-- Cancers are by no means the only health problems to watch for in families. Hypertension, heart disease, high cholesterol and glaucoma are just a few of the conditions which may be common among family members. It's best to keep your eyes open, ask lots of questions, interview older generations, and keep meticulous records. Knowledge is power.
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