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Genet Med. 2005 Oct;7(8):550-6.

Comparison of genotypic and phenotypic strategies for population screening in hemochromatosis: assessment of anxiety, depression, and perception of health.

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Public Health Sciences and Medical Statistics, and 2Liver Research Group, University of Southampton, United Kingdom.



Hemochromatosis is a treatable disorder with a major genetic predisposition. It provides an example in which genotypic and phenotypic strategies for screening may be compared. We previously showed noninferiority of uptake of a genotypic population screening strategy for hemochromatosis compared with a phenotypic strategy. In this article we present the psychologic effects of each strategy.


A sample of 3000 individuals from primary care were randomly allocated to a phenotypic or genotypic screening strategy for hemochromatosis, and the 939 individuals who accepted screening provide the sample for this article. Standardized assessments of anxiety, general health, and depression were made at invitation, testing, result-giving, and 6 months.


Screening did not lead to significant changes in the self-rated assessments of anxiety, depression, and general health over time, and there were no significant differences between the two screening strategies. The unemployed or permanently disabled had lower ratings of health and higher anxiety and depression.


The two screening strategies appeared to cause little adverse psychologic disturbance in the short term, and there was no difference between the two strategies This study provides some empiric data to support arguments against "genetic exceptionalism" and suggests that genetic testing when used for population screening for a treatable disease has few adverse effects.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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