Nov 21, 2014 3:00 PM

Author: Office of Public Affairs

As your family gathers over the holidays, take a few minutes to discuss an important topic that may save your life. “Learning your family’s health history can pay off in the long run,” says Kinley Garfield, a genetic counselor at University of Utah Health’s Huntsman Cancer Institute. “Some cancers and conditions have a genetic component. By identifying those who have a genetic susceptibility to cancer, health care providers can tailor medical care to help prevent cancer from developing or provide treatment early, when it’s most effective.” The more proactive you are about collecting your personal and family health history, the better the medical community can protect your health.  

To get started, download this tracker, fill it out, and share the results with your doctor. Focus on the last three generations, but any information is helpful. 

Determining Your Risk Factor

“Just because one of your family members had cancer, doesn’t mean you’re destined for the same,” Garfield says. While you can’t control some risk factors like your genes and your age, you can reduce your risk for cancer by incorporating these lifestyle habits:

    • Don’t smoke.
    • Get preventive screenings.
    • Maintain a healthy weight.
    • Exercise regularly.
    • Eat a balanced diet.
    • Limit alcohol. 

Learning about your family’s health history helps your doctors determine which screenings may be right for you. Earlier screenings or additional preventive steps may be suggested for family histories with the following:  

    • Cancer diagnosis at an early age
    • Multiple family members with the same type of cancer
    • Close family member with multiple types of cancer
    • Family member with a rare type of cancer

If you have any concerns, schedule a free appointment with a Huntsman Cancer Institute genetic counselor or talk with your primary care physician. 

genetics family health cancer prevention

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