Factors that increase your risk of hereditary hemochromatosis include:

  • Having 2 copies of a mutated HFE gene. This is the greatest risk factor for hereditary hemochromatosis.
  • Family history. If you have a first-degree relative — a parent or sibling — with hemochromatosis, you're more likely to develop the disease. If you have a family history of alcoholism, heart attacks, diabetes, liver disease, arthritis or impotence, your risk of hemochromatosis is greater.
  • Ethnicity. People of Northern European descent are more prone to hereditary hemochromatosis than are people of other ethnic backgrounds. Hemochromatosis is less common in African-Americans, Hispanics and Asian-Americans.
  • Being a man. Men are more likely to develop signs and symptoms of hemochromatosis at an earlier age. Because women lose iron through menstruation and pregnancy, they tend to store less of the mineral than men do. After menopause or a hysterectomy, the risk for women increases.
Dec. 13, 2012

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