Family disease not just genetic — shared behavior may play key role

Similar lifestyle choices and an individual's surroundings may be on a par with genetics when it comes to diseases that run in the family, according to a new study published in Nature Genetics.

For the study, researchers examined the medical histories of more than 500,000 people and their families collected in the United Kingdom Biobank. Data was examined from both blood and adoptive relatives. Researchers focused on 12 common diseases including heart conditions, high blood pressure and several types of cancer and neurological diseases.

Analysis revealed not accounting for shared environmental factors and behavioral patterns led to a 47 percent overestimation of genetic importance regarding hereditary disease.

Study co-author Chris Haley, PhD, of the University of Edinburgh's MRC Human Genetics Unit in the United Kingdom, said, "The huge UK Biobank study allowed us to obtain very precise estimates of the role of genetics in these important diseases. It also identified those diseases where the shared family environment is important, such as heart disease, hypertension and depression, and also equally interestingly those where family environment is of limited or no apparent importance, such as dementia, stroke and Parkinson's disease."

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