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Excess iron linked to diseases

January 21, 2008|From Times wire reports

Liver cancer, arthritis and other complications caused by excessive iron in the blood may develop in more than one-quarter of men with hemochromatosis, the most common inherited blood disorder, researchers in Australia found.

Left untreated, 28.4% of men with hemochromatosis will develop disorders caused by iron overload, according to doctors at Melbourne's Murdoch Childrens Research Institute.

The finding suggests hemochromatosis leads to more diseases than previous studies showed. It also supports evidence that genetic screening can enable those with the disorder to start therapy earlier to prevent harmful iron accumulation that usually appears in midlife. The most common treatment is to remove blood.

The research, published in the Jan. 17 New England Journal of Medicine, is based on a study of 1,438 randomly selected, healthy adults followed for an average of 12 years. Of those, 108 women and 95 men inherited a defective gene known as HFE from both parents, making them susceptible to absorbing too much iron from food, potentially leading to iron overload.

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