Monday, September 28, 2009

More evidence for need of access to family medical history

Mental illness affects about 58 million people over the age of 18 in the United States. About one in four adults suffer from disorders ranging from depression to obsessive-compulsive disorder to schizophrenia in a given year, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

The genetic force behind these illnesses is strong — for an identical twin who has developed schizophrenia, his or her twin has a 50 percent chance to do so as well — but clearly not absolute.

For most, the chance of developing schizophrenia or bipolar disorder is only around 1 percent, but for those with a close relative with the disorder, such as a parent or sibling, the average risk rises to about 10 percent.

And...unlike some single-gene disorders such as cystic fibrosis or Tay-Sachs, that can be tested for before conception and potentially avoided, or during pregnancy, there is no testing for mental illness, which experts say is likely a complex combination of multiple genes, plus environment influences.

A survey and opportunity to comment on whether knowing your family mental history weighs into your decsion to have children is available at this link. Those of us separated by adoption were not considered in the original article or the survey.

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