Andrology Australia strongly encourages men to talk to their doctor about their health concerns, especially when it comes to ‘the bits below the belt’.
As part of this conversation, the doctor may ask, “Do you have a family history of…?” ending the question with one or more possible problems or diseases.
This is very important information to know. For example, for men who have a father or brother with prostate cancer, their risk of developing prostate cancer is known to be higher. The risk is higher again if more than one member of the family has prostate cancer. It is also higher if that person was diagnosed at an earlier age. In general this means that if your father had been diagnosed with prostate cancer at the age of 50 years, your risk of prostate cancer is doubled. Likewise if you have two relatives who had been diagnosed with prostate cancer at 50 years, then your risk of prostate cancer is up to seven times higher.
Family history is known to be a factor in other conditions as well, including testicular cancer, fertility problems, heart disease, some mental illness, dementia, osteoporosis, and blood pressure problems.
It is also helpful to be aware of your own health history, because some diseases that you may have had as a child (even if you can’t remember having them) can increase your risk of problems later on. For example, undescended testes are usually found and treated at a young age, but even after treatment the person has an increased risk of fertility problems and testicular cancer.
So if you are spending time at family gatherings over the summer, it’s a good investment in your own health to ask your relatives about their health.
This article first appeared in issue 57 of The Healthy Male, the newsletter of Andrology Australia. © Andrology Australia (www.andrologyaustralia.org) and can be accessed at https://www.andrologyaustralia.org/2016/01/know-your-family-health-history/.
If you have a family history of prostate cancer, Dr Swindle recommends that regular prostate cancer screening begins at age 40. Contact your GP or call Dr Swindle’s office on (07) 3010 3333 for a recommendation on where you can be tested.