The Genetics of Asthma

Scientists studying asthma in families agree there is a genetic component to the disease. While the prevalence of asthma is 4 percent to 5 percent in the U.S. population overall, it's 20 percent to 25 percent among those who have a sibling or parent with asthma.

Children born to families with one asthmatic parent have a risk of developing the disease several times that of children born to those without the disease. And the risk is even greater if both parents have asthma.

There seems to be no single "asthma gene" that produces symptoms in patients and little or no evidence to indicate that specific genes actually cause it. Instead, genes only establish a susceptibility, giving each person a greater or lesser risk of developing asthma in response to their environment. The degree of susceptibility that any one individual might have is probably determined by how many asthma genes they have.

Reprinted with the Permission from The American Medical Association

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