BACKGROUND: Many patients referred for an elevated serum ferritin level <1000 μg/L are advised that they likely have iron overload and hemochromatosis. AIMS: To determine the prevalence of HFE mutations in the hemochromatosis gene for 11 serum ferritin concentration intervals from 200 μg/L to 1000 μg/L in Caucasian participants in a primary care, population-based study. METHODS: The Hemochromatosis and Iron Overload Screening study screened 99,711 participants for serum ferritin levels, transferrin saturation and genetic testing for the C282Y and H63D mutations of the HFE gene. This analysis was confined to 17,160 male and 27,465 female Caucasian participants because the HFE C282Y mutation is rare in other races. Post-test likelihood was calculated for prediction of C282Y homozygosity from a ferritin interval. A subgroup analysis was performed in participants with both an elevated serum ferritin level and transferrin saturation. RESULTS: There were 3359 male and 2416 female participants with an elevated serum ferritin level (200 μg/L to 1000 μg/L for women, 300 μg/L to 1000 μg/L for men). There were 69 male (2.1%) and 87 female (3.6%) C282Y homozygotes, and the probability of being a homozygote increased as the ferritin level increased. Post-test likelihood values were 0.3% to 16% in men and 0.3% to 30.4% in women. CONCLUSIONS: Iron loading HFE mutations are unlikely to be the most common cause of an elevated serum ferritin level in patients with mild hyperferritinemia. Patients should be advised that there are many causes of an elevated serum ferritin level including iron overload.
- Iron overload