An increase in the iron content of food may be harmful to people with genetic hemochromatosis. We studied the prevalence of this disorder in Sweden, which is the country with the world's highest iron fortification of food. Serum ferritin and transferrin (TIBC) saturation levels were used as initial screening methods. Three (0.5%) of 623 males aged 30-39 years were found to have genetic hemochromatosis. Family studies revealed 10 additional homozygotic family members. A prevalence of 0.5% of homozygotes (q2) implies a gene frequency (q) of 6.9% or a heterozygote frequency (2 x Q) of 13.8%. The high gene frequency may be explained by a possible genetic advantage of heterozygotes in the past. We conclude that idiopathic hemochromatosis is not as rare as previously thought. Affected persons should be detected and treated before irreversible organ damage occurs. This study demonstrates that serum ferritin levels together with TIBC saturation levels are adequate methods for screening populations.