The relationship between alcoholism and hereditary hemochromatosis remains controversial. Previous studies have included patients with alcoholic siderosis rather than hereditary hemochromatosis. In this retrospective study, the clinical features, iron status, alcohol history, liver histology, and long-term survival were reviewed in 105 homozygotes for hemochromatosis using rigid diagnostic criteria including an HLA identical sibling with iron overload. Heavy alcohol consumption (>80 g ethanol/day) was found in 15% of hemochromatosis patients. Histological features of alcoholic liver disease (Mallory's hyaline bodies, pericentral fibrosis, polymorphonuclear infiltrate, and fatty infiltration) were uncommon in hemochromatosis. Hemochromatosis patients with heavy alcohol consumption had a higher prevalence of cirrhosis than hemochromatosis patients without heavy alcohol consumption. Hepatic iron concentration and hepatic iron index did not significantly differ between these two hemochromatosis groups. Long-term survival was significantly reduced in patients with heavy alcohol consumption (mean follow-up, 9.22 years). This suggests that chronic alcohol consumption has an additive hepatotoxic effect despite the paucity of histological features of alcoholic liver disease.
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