Genetic studies done by the Cape Town GeneCare team have shown that approximately 17% of the Caucasian population of SA (i.e. up to 1 out of 6 people) are carriers of the HH gene mutation C282Y.
Furthermore up to 1 out of 115 could have inherited it from both parents and as homozygotes for the mutation they are at serious risk of loading iron.
According to the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, US, Haemochromatosis is THE MOST COMMON Genetic Disease to affect the Caucasian population. Yet it continues to be largely unrecognised, misdiagnosed and considered to be rare by many doctors.
WHO IS AT RISK?
Most of the suffering associated with HH is PREVENTABLE if potential victims are detected at a young age or before organ damage occurs. Those at risk are persons of European descent, particularly the Irish, Scots, French and English; as well as those who have a family history of
arthritis, diabetes, liver disease or heart failure. In particular ALL relatives of an HH sufferer should be tested. As carriers do not necessarily develop symptoms HH can be passed on in a family unnoticed.
However, the offspring of 2 carriers will have a 25% (1 in 4) chance of being homozygous. Many rural South Africans may also be affected by Acquired Iron Overload through eating food cooked in, and drinking beer brewed in, iron (potjie) pots. This condition is not genetic (ie: not inherited).