BACKGROUND: Blood banks have large altruistic donor populations and existing infrastructure that make them attractive sites for genetic epidemiologic research, but donors' willingness to participate and the impact on blood donation are unknown.

STUDY DESIGN AND METHODS: A total of 2162 blood donors in Northern California responded to a cross-sectional questionnaire in August and September 2007. Participants were asked their likelihood of participation and future blood donation under three different scenarios: identity-linked genetic research, identity-unlinked genetic research, and genetic testing as a service.

RESULTS: The majority of blood donors indicated that they would be likely or very likely to participate in identity-linked genetic research (67%) and in identity-unlinked genetic research (54%). While older donors and more frequent donors were more likely to participate in identity-linked research, younger, Caucasian, more educated, and more frequent donors were more likely to participate in identity-unlinked research. Less than 10% of donors indicated they would be less likely to donate blood in the future if genetic research was conducted at blood banks. More than 75% of donors would be interested in genetic testing as an optional service at the blood bank, but more than 20% of donors would be less likely to donate if such a service was offered.

CONCLUSION: Overall, we found that the majority of blood donors would be likely to participate in genetic research and that less than 10% would be less inclined to donate if such research was conducted by blood banks.