General Hemochromatosis Screening Not Recommended

ACP review of studies finds benefits do not outweigh risks or costs for asymptomatic patients

WEDNESDAY, Oct. 5 (HealthDay News) -- The American College of Physicians (ACP) does not recommend routine screening of asymptomatic patients for hereditary hemochromatosis, according to a review and clinical practice guidelines in the Oct. 4 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine. There is insufficient evidence to make a recommendation either for or against screening of the general population.

Brian Schmitt, M.D., M.P.H., of Hines Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Hines, Ill., and colleagues conducted a systematic review of studies conducted between 1966 and 2004. They found that the prevalence of hemochromatosis, a disease in which the body absorbs too much iron due to a genetic mutation, ranged from one in 169 patients to one in 556 patients. However, there is no way to predict which patients carrying the gene will become symptomatic.

"The available evidence does not demonstrate that benefits outweigh the risks and costs of hemochromatosis screening," the researchers conclude. The ACP recommends that patients with a family history of the disease or elevated serum ferritin or transferrin saturation be informed of the benefits and risks of genetic testing.

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