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April 20, 2002

Genetics and Heredity

Question from Peebles, Ohio, USA:

My 56 year old mother has not been tested for diabetes by a doctor, but tests herself sometimes with higher than normal results. Her mother has just passed away from kidney failure due to type 2 diabetes, and three of my mother's siblings also have it. What are the chances of it being passed down to my mother and me? (I'm 25 years old.)


I would suggest that your mother be seen by her physician as soon as possible to have a definitive blood glucose test completed to see if she really does have diabetes. She is at a higher risk of developing type�2 diabetes because of her mother and siblings having it, especially if she is overweight.

Also, you at risk because of your family history of diabetes, and again, you are at a greater risk if you are overweight. If weight is a problem for both of you, please begin to make changes in your lifestyle, under the guidance of your health care providers.

Additional comments from Dr. Stuart Brink:

Risks for type 2 diabetes genetically are higher than for type�1 diabetes, but both have some inherited component. If you have the susceptibility gene for type 2 diabetes and are overweight, hypertensive, have high lipid levels or acanthosis, or have excess male-like hormones (androgens), then this is called syndrome X. You should work with your health care team to fashion ways to reduce weight, increase activity and change your food choices. The more folks in your family with the same pattern, the higher the genetic risk.