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Keywords:

  • ethics;
  • genetic screening;
  • harm;
  • hemochromatosis;
  • heterozygote;
  • informed consent

Hereditary hemochromatosis (HH) is a common preventable disorder of iron overload that can result in liver cirrhosis and reduced lifespan. Most HH is due to homozygosity for the HFE p.C282Y substitution. We conducted a study of screening for p.C282Y in high schools where p.C282Y heterozygotes (CY) individuals were informed of their genotype by letter. We studied whether these individuals understood the implications of their genotype, whether this resulted in anxiety or reduced health perception and whether cascade testing was higher in families of CY than wild-type homozygous (CC) individuals. We found 586 of 5757 (1 in 10) screened individuals were CY. One month after receiving their result, 83% correctly answered that they have one copy of p.C282Y. There was no adverse change in anxiety or health perception from prior to screening to 1 month after receiving results. Significantly more family members of CY individuals than CC individuals were informed about HH and had testing for HH. In conclusion, we found that informing CY individuals of their genotype does not increase anxiety and the implications are generally well understood. This leads to cascade testing in a minority of families. CY individuals should be informed of their genetic status when identified by population screening.