Population screening for hemochromatosis: A comparison of unbound iron-binding capacity, transferrin saturation, and C282Y genotyping in 5,211 voluntary blood donors



Early diagnosis and treatment of hemochromatosis is essential to prevent organ damage. Screening strategies to detect early hemochromatosis include testing for iron overload and/or genetic testing. Voluntary blood donors numbering 5,211 were screened with unbound iron-binding capacity (UIBC), transferrin saturation (TS), and genetic testing for the C282Y mutation of the HFE gene. The study found 16 C282Y homozygotes (1 in 327), 69 compound heterozygotes, 371 simple heterozygotes, and 4,755 normals. There were 5 men and 11 women homozygotes with a mean age of 42, range 28 to 57. Mean UIBC (24 ± 7 μmol/L) and TS (48% ± 17%) in homozygotes were significantly different from compound heterozygotes, simple heterozygotes, and normals (ANOVA). Only 3 homozygotes had an elevated serum ferritin. Family studies found an additional 4 iron-loaded homozygotes. Optimal thresholds were ≤28 μmol/L for UIBC and ≥46% for TS. Receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curve analysis showed an area under the curve for UIBC of 0.93 (0.85-1.0, 95% confidence interval), and for TS of 0.83 (0.7-0.95). Screening with UIBC to preselect those for genotyping is a cost-efficient strategy for population screening for hemochromatosis.