Family history: the neglected risk factor in disease prevention

Simon E P Hauser
Med J Aust 2010; 193 (7): . || doi: 10.5694/j.1326-5377.2010.tb03985.x
Published online: 4 October 2010

To the Editor: I read the article by Langlands and colleagues1 with some dismay, and a sinking heart. Their report is further evidence of the dangers of moving away from the basic skills of comprehensive history taking and performing a detailed physical examination. Interestingly, in the United States, the debate regarding performing a physical examination has come full circle, from virtually ignoring its importance to now telling us how vital it is and how to perform it.2 But it is the taking of a comprehensive history that, as one of my mentors told me, “is where the money is”, and a detailed family history is an integral part of this.

  • The Northern Hospital, Melbourne, VIC.


  • 1. Langlands AR, Prentice DA, Ravine D. A retrospective audit of family history records in short-stay medical admissions. Med J Aust 2010; 192: 682-684. <MJA full text>
  • 2. Verghese A, Horwitz RI. In praise of the physical examination [editorial]. BMJ 2009; 339: b5448.
  • 3. Edelman E, Eng C. A practical guide to interpretation and clinical application of personal genomic screening. BMJ 2009; 339: b4253.
  • 4. Collins FS. The language of life: DNA and the revolution in personalized medicine. New York: Harper, 2010.


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