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Know your family history

Posted at 5:30 PM, Jun 12, 2018
and last updated 2018-06-12 18:30:37-04

Father's Day is a day to spend time together and doctors say - a great chance to talk about your family's health history.

Up to ten percent of all cancers are linked to a genetic abnormality - or inherited risk.

Your family's health history may say a lot about your own health and help lower your risk of cancer.

Fighting cancer isn't just a profession for Doctor Kevin Tulipana

It's personal.     

He lost his father to pancreatic cancer.  

Diagnosed at only 57, he never got to see his grandchildren grow up.

"When a primary family member gets cancer, your mind goes to: 'Oh, my goodness. I'm going to get that cancer, too' but that's not always the case," Tulipana said.

Knowing your family's health history helps reveal the kinds of health issues you may face. According to Tulipana, the Medical Director of Hospital Care at Cancer Treatment Centers of America in Tulsa.

"Those primary relatives - mother, father, brother, sisters - those people are the most important as far as family risk," Tulipana said.

Find out their age when diagnosed.

"If you have a family member that was diagnosed with cancer before 50 years of age it's something that should really stand out as unusual to you," Tulipana said. "And something you should take to heart."  

Take it to heart because while the risk of inherited cancer is 5-to-10 percent, Dr. Tulipana warns more than 50 percent of cancer is caused by risks you can avoid or modify.

Such as:  
-tobacco use
-poor diet
-and excessive sun exposure

Knowing their own family history, Dr. Tulipana and his wife are teaching their eight children to avoid those to help lower their risk - and prevent even more than cancer.    

"Those are things that you can change within yourself and make a dramatic impact on your overall health," Tulipana said. "Not just cancer reduction, but also heart disease, diabetes and all of those others."

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