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My family does not have a history of this disease, so I am not at risk of contracting it

It's a myth!

Unfortunately, it is not that simple! There are several modes of transmission for genetic diseases, some of which are referred to as “dominant transmission” diseases that affect people in every generation, and in their case, it is true that it is easy to assess the risk of contracting it based on family history.

However, a large percentage of genetic diseases are referred to as “recessive transmission” diseases: in order to be affected, an individual must receive a mutant gene from each of his parents; they are “carriers” of the disease but generally show no symptoms. For this reason, the disease is often “hidden”, if you will, and there is no family history before a person is diagnosed with the disease.

Some examples of recessive transmission diseases include:

Cystic Fibrosis

It is estimated that one in 25 people in the Caucasian population carry this disease. The risk for a couple (without a family history) to have an affected child is therefore 1 in 2500.

Hemochromatosis

One in 10 people (in Caucasians) carry this disease, characterized by excess absorption and storage of iron in the body. The risk for a couple without a family history of having an affected child is 1 in 400.

Sickle Cell Anemia

Among African Americans, it is estimated that one in 13 people carry this disease. The risk for a couple (without a family history) to have an affected child is therefore 1 in 676.

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