• iron overload;
  • haemochromatosis;
  • HFE;
  • population screening


Background:  Haemochromatosis is a common genetic disease in populations of a northern European origin. However, there is uncertainty as to whether it is a condition that should be screened for.

Aims:  To determine the proportion of persons, in a public hospital setting, who were homozygous for the C282Y mutation for hereditary haemochromatosis and the proportion of these persons who would benefit from therapeutic phlebotomy.

Methods:  All persons who had blood submitted for pathology testing, had total iron-binding capacity and iron measured and transferrin saturation calculated, and where this result exceeded 40%, genotyping for the C282Y mutation was carried out.

Results:  Of 18 779 patients screened, 887 (5.4%) were found to have transferrin saturation greater than 40%. Thirty-five of these were homozygous for the C282Y mutation. Fourteen were previously known to be affected and six of these were non-compliant with venesection. Venesection was commenced in 5 of the 21 newly diagnosed subjects.

Conclusions:  The proportion of detected subjects who commenced venesection was significant. Results suggest that clinical penetrance is higher in Australia than other countries and that even in the environment of a large tertiary teaching hospital, phenotypic screening identifies cases of hereditary haemochromatosis, which are likely to benefit from treatment.