Does genetic testing offer utility as a supplement to traditional family health history intake for inherited disease risk?

Fam Pract. 2023 Dec 22;40(5-6):760-767. doi: 10.1093/fampra/cmad017.


Content: This study examines the potential utility of genetic testing as a supplement to family health history to screen for increased risk of inherited disease. Medical conditions are often misreported or misunderstood, especially those related to different forms of cardiac disease (arrhythmias vs. structural heart disease vs. coronary artery disease), female organ cancers (uterine vs. ovarian vs. cervical), and type of cancer (differentiating primary cancer from metastases to other organs). While these nuances appear subtle, they can dramatically alter medical management. For example, different types of cardiac failure (structural, arrhythmia, and coronary artery disease) have inherited forms that are managed with vastly different approaches.

Methods: Using a dataset of over 6,200 individuals who underwent genetic screening, we compared the ability of genetic testing and traditional family health history to identify increased risk of inherited disease. A further, in-depth qualitative study of individuals for whom risk identified through each method was discordant, explored whether this discordance could be addressed through changes in family health history intake.

Findings: Of 90 individuals for whom genetic testing indicated significant increased risk for inherited disease, two-thirds (66%) had no corroborating family health history. Specifically, we identify cardiomyopathy, arrhythmia, and malignant hyperthermia as conditions for which discordance between genetic testing and traditional family health history was greatest, and familial hypercholesterolaemia, Lynch syndrome, and hereditary breast and ovarian cancer as conditions for which greater concordance existed.

Conclusion: We conclude that genetic testing offers utility as a supplement to traditional family health history intake over certain conditions.

Keywords: family health history; genetic screening; inherited disease risk; preventive health.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Arrhythmias, Cardiac / genetics
  • Colorectal Neoplasms, Hereditary Nonpolyposis* / diagnosis
  • Colorectal Neoplasms, Hereditary Nonpolyposis* / genetics
  • Coronary Artery Disease* / genetics
  • Female
  • Genetic Testing
  • Heart Diseases*
  • Humans
  • Medical History Taking