In recognition of the importance of family history, the Surgeon General and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, have launched a public health campaign to encourage people to learn more about their family health history. Thanksgiving (November 24th) is National Family History day because it is a day that families come together and it is the perfect opportunity to talk about your family history. Knowing your family health history and the health conditions that have occurred in previous generations can help you assess your risk for these health conditions and is a powerful tool for you and your health care provider. While most people understand that their family history can tell them about their health risks, less than thirty percent of people have written down or systematically collected family history information. To help with this process, the Surgeon General has developed a website – My Family Health Portrait (https://familyhistory.hhs.gov/FHH/html/index.html) – that helps you ask the right questions and share the information with your family members.
While family history is important, does it tell you all your genetic risks? Simply put – no.
Family health history will tell you about your risk for diseases that have occurred in previous generations of your family, but a family health history cannot tell you about your risk to carry certain recessive genes nor can it tell you about your baby’s risk to have a recessive condition. Luckily, the Baby Genes Carrier Screening test and Baby Genes Newborn Screening test can help you with these situations. Both carrier screening and newborn screening tests look for genetic variants in over 80 recessive genes (https://babygenes.wpengine.com/genes-diseases-references/).
But what is a recessive gene and what does it mean? Disorders inherited recessively are caused by having two variants – one in each copy of a person’s genes- causing neither gene to function correctly. Because everyone has two copies of each gene, variants in just one gene out of a pair can be passed down generation to generation without anyone knowing or having any health effects. When someone has one of these variants in a single gene of a pair, they are “carriers” for that disorder.
Before DNA testing, it was only when an infant was born with two variants in the same gene causing a recessive disorder that people learned that these disorders are in their family. However, Baby Gene carrier testing can now help you determine your risk BEFORE you have a child with a recessive disorder. Baby Genes Carrier Screening (https://babygenes.wpengine.com/carrier-screening/) determines which, if any, recessive genes you carry and Baby Genes Newborn Screening test (https://babygenes.wpengine.com/supplemental-newborn-testing/) reveals if your baby has one of the recessive disorders on the screening panel. Both tests will give you the information you need to insure your family’s optimal health.
So this Thanksgiving, talk about your family history and consider Baby Genes testing to get your whole health picture.