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Genet Test. 2004 Summer;8(2):98-103.

Hereditary hemochromatosis genetic testing of at-risk children: what is the appropriate age?

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Bruce Lefroy Centre for Genetic Health Research, Murdoch Children's Research Institute, Department of Paediatrics, University of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.


The objective of this study was to consider the objective evidence and ethical arguments for the appropriate age to test children at risk of developing hereditary hemochromatosis. A literature search for information on iron overload in children, onset of disease expression for hemochromatosis, and recommendations for age of cascade screening was undertaken. We examined the objective evidence and arguments for testing in early childhood and those for delaying testing until later teenage years. Cascade testing of offspring of people with hemochromatosis is widely advocated because it is an easily preventable disease. The ideal age to test those offspring is a matter of debate. Some authorities advocate testing at a very young age whereas others recommend delaying testing until late teenage years. To date there has been no published overview of the objective evidence and arguments central to this debate. In children who are C282Y homozygous, iron overload is rare in the first two decades of life and associated morbidity has only been documented in 1 patient. In the cascade setting, genetic testing for hemochromatosis need not be offered until late teenage years.

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