The family history of cancer

If cancer runs in your family, there is much you can do to recognize your potential risk and catch the disease before it strikes.

family  history of cancer
Image: filipefrazao/Thinkstock

You may remember stories of your father's military service and your mother's hometown, but how much do you know about your family's medical history? In particular, do you know whether anyone on your mom or dad's side ever had cancer?

"Family history can be one of the first lines of defense in preventing cancer," says Dr. Huma Q. Rana, clinical director of the Center for Cancer Genetics and Prevention at Harvard-affiliated Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

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