Psychosocial impact of genetic testing for hemochromatosis in the HEIRS Study: a comparison of participants recruited in Canada and in the United States

Genet Test. Spring 2007;11(1):55-64. doi: 10.1089/gte.2006.0512.


The Hemochromatosis and Iron Overload Screening (HEIRS) Study screened 101,168 participants recruited from primary-care clinics in Canada and the United States. The present study investigated differences in the psychological effects of genetic screening for hemochromatosis (HFE mutation analysis) in participants from each country. Study participants comprised a subset of 2,654 individuals who donated blood for HFE mutation analysis. The initial screening and 1-month post-result questionnaires included measures of General Health, Mental Health (SF-36), and a measure of the percentage of individuals who experienced at least one example of worry in response to the genetic testing. Participants reported similar changes in general health and mental health, regardless of mutation result, or country. Although a significantly lower percentage of Canadian participants than U.S. participants indicated at least one negative emotional response to the genetic testing, greater than 50% of C282Y homozygote participants (the gene mutation most strongly associated with hemochromatosis) from both countries experienced such in response to testing. Thus, although not serious enough to affect individuals' mental or physical health, there was evidence of at least one element of negative emotional response to the genetic testing. These findings suggest that population screening for common HFE mutations associated with hemochromatosis risk has similar psychological effects on Canadian and U.S. individuals, although fewer Canadians may experience a negative response to such testing.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Canada
  • Genetic Testing / psychology*
  • Hemochromatosis / genetics*
  • Hemochromatosis Protein
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class I / genetics
  • Humans
  • Membrane Proteins / genetics
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States


  • HFE protein, human
  • Hemochromatosis Protein
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class I
  • Membrane Proteins