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Keywords:

  • clinical genetics;
  • consanguinity

Marriage between close biological relatives is generally regarded with suspicion and distaste within Western society, reflecting historical and religious prejudice. By comparison, in many other populations there is a strong preference for consanguineous unions, most frequently contracted between first cousins, and marriage outside the family is perceived as a risky and disruptive option. The increasing importance of the genetic contribution to the overall disease profile in both developed and developing countries has highlighted potential problems associated with detrimental recessive gene expression in consanguineous progeny. This review examines the outcomes of consanguineous unions, with proposals as to how the ongoing preference for consanguinity in many communities can best be accommodated from a clinical genetics perspective.