Iron men face death risk

About one in 200 Australians may not know a potential killer lurks in their blood: iron.

Haemochromatosis, described as “an inherited iron overload disorder”, was little known, but easily treated, medical specialists said at a seminar last week.

Those at risk are descended from Vikings or Celts.

Queensland Institute of Medical Research hosted the seminar for lay and professional people as a lead-in to Haemochromatosis Awareness Week.

Haemochromatosis Australia’s GP liaison officer, Dr Katie Goot, said at least half those with the disorder did not know they had it, although a blood test could detect the genetic disorder.

Dr Goot said relatives had a 25 percent risk of having the disorder and should be screened too.

Research director at the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, Professor Lawrie Powell, explained what we eat provides enough iron for our needs.

When too much iron is absorbed into the body and stored in tissues and organs, it may become deadly.

For one-quarter of those with the disorder, excessive iron overload could result in cirrhosis of the liver, cancer or arthritis, Professor Powell said.

Iron could be reduced to and maintained at a safe level by a series of venesections, the same process as blood donations.

After Haemochromatosis Australia’s secretary Tony Moorhead was diagnosed in 1998, at age 42, he had weekly venesections for about a year.

He has given almost 100 blood donations.

Dr Amanda Allen from the Australian Red Cross Blood Service said about one-third of blood donors in 2010-2011 had a medical reason, such as iron overload, for donating blood.

Provided other criteria were met the blood could be used, and intending donors should consult their GP to discuss eligibility, she said.

Haemochromatosis Awareness Week runs from August 13-19. For events and information, visit the support society’s webpage:, or call 1300 019 028.

One Response to “Iron men face death risk”
  1. Great story Shirley. Thanks for helping us spread the news.
    Haemochromatosis Awareness Week is generating plenty of interest. Our phone line (1300 019028) is running hot with people surprised and relived to find out we are here to support and inform.
    You might also like to check our facebook page


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