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  • Writer's pictureSinead Mackintosh

Family History

Family history taking is one of the first things to happen in a genetic counselling session.

This is not because the genetic counsellor is noisy or prolonging your session. A detailed family history is an integral part of genetic counselling, and this is why:

Genetic family history taking is the process of gathering information about the health conditions of an individual's biological relatives.

Here are some specific reasons why genetic family history taking is important:

Identify patterns of genetic disorders: Genetic conditions follow different patterns of inheritance (e.g., recessive, dominant and X-linked). A thorough family history can help identify who else is at potential risk for these disorders. It also helps genetic counsellors with risk assessment (e.g., the chances of the cancer being inherited).

Early detection of disease: family history can provide information about an individual's risk for developing certain diseases, such as heart disease. This information can help healthcare providers screen for these conditions earlier and provide preventive care.

Family relationships and dynamics: while taking a family history, the genetic counsellor may learn about the different relationships between family members and how that may impact the session. Understanding how genetic information may be shared between family members is also important. E.g., if family members are estranged, then they might be less likely to disclose important information (like cancer etc.) to each other.

In summary, genetic family history taking is an important tool for identifying potential genetic risks, detecting diseases early, and family relationships.

Please contact your healthcare provider if you have a family history of a disease or genetic condition or want more information. If you are based in South Africa and are unsure where to access genetic healthcare, then please feel free to message us privately or email us at:

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