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Am J Public Health. 1988 Oct;78(10):1283-6.

Health family trees: a tool for finding and helping young family members of coronary and cancer prone pedigrees in Texas and Utah.

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  • 1Cardiovascular Genetics Research Clinic, University of Utah Medical School, Salt Lake City 84108.


We report on the feasibility and utility of a new approach for identifying the small percentage of families in the general population with strong familial predisposition to early coronary heart disease, strokes, and common familial cancers (breast, colon, lung), using the "Health Family Tree," a medical family history. A total of 24,332 "trees" were completed by parents and students in 37 high schools in 14 urban and rural communities in Texas and Utah during the years 1980-86. Completed "trees" were obtained from 68 per cent of all enrolled students. High-risk families, included 1,796 families with early coronary disease (7.5 per cent of all student families or 3.7 per cent of their parents' families), 870 stroke families (3.6 per cent), and 415 cancer prone families (1.7 per cent). Among these 3,081 high-risk families there were 8,245 family members already reported to have been diagnosed by a physician to have the familial disease of interest and 43,269 high risk unaffected siblings and offspring of these persons. The average cost per identified high-risk unaffected person was under $10. We conclude that the "Health Family Tree" is a feasible and cost-effective way to find high-risk families.

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