Family history red flags
Red flags indicate to healthcare providers that their patient (or their patient’s family) may be at increased risk for a genetic condition. The best way to identify red flags is by taking a family history (in addition to a personal health history).
Download the quick reference Red flags point of care tool.
Find a family history taking tool here.
Multiple affected family members may
- Indicate they have the same or a related disorder
- e.g. family history of endometrial and colon cancer (Lynch syndrome)
- Illustrate both shared genetics and environmental risk factors
- Demonstrate pattern of inheritance (recessive, dominant, X-linked)
Earlier age of onset of disease (or symptom) than typically expected
- May demonstrate genetic predisposition in an individual who is more susceptible to environmental risk factors
- e.g. pre-menopausal breast cancer (BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation); premature ovarian failure before age 40 (fragile X syndrome carrier)
Disease occurring in an individual of the less commonly affected sex
- e.g. breast cancer in a male
Presence of disease in the absence of other precipitating factors
- e.g. sudden unexplained death in an athletic 20-year-old (hypertrophic cardiomyopathy); diabetes mellitus (hereditary hemochromatosis or myotonic dystrophy)
- Some genetic disorders are more common in certain ethnic groups
- e.g. Tay-Sachs disease, Gaucher disease, Familial dysautonomia, Canavan disease in Ashkenazi Jewish individuals; Hemoglobinopathies (thalassemia, sickle cell anemia) in individuals of Mediterranean, African, Middle Eastern and South East Asian ancestry
- Generally defined as a union between two individuals related as second cousins or closer
- The incidence of congenital anomalies in the offspring of first cousins has been estimated to be 1.7–2.8% higher than the background population risk (which is 2-3%), mostly attributable to autosomal recessive diseases.
History of congenital anomalies (e.g. heart defect, imperforate anus), still birth, childhood death, infertility, more than three unexplained miscarriages
- May be suggestive of underlying genetic etiology such as a single gene disorder or a familial chromosome re-arrangement
GenetiKit project resources
NCHPEG (National Coalition for Health Professional Education in Genetics) for products and programs