Welcome to Ireland President Obama: How’s your hemochromatosis?

by Stephen Cobb on May 23, 2011

President Obama in IrelandPresident Obama arrived in Ireland today and although the main focus of his visit is diplomacy, he is also set to connect with his Irish roots. He will visit the village of Moneygall in County Offaly, home to just under 300 people, some of whom are distant relatives of the President (as reported by Christian Science Monitor).

Which brings me to the point of this blog post: An Irish heritage can be a wonderful thing, but it can also come with a down side, one that goes by the name of hereditary hemochromatosis, a.k.a. Celtic Curse. Although a lot of websites say that hemochromatosis is rare among people of African descent, this potentially fatal iron disorder is not that rare in people who self-identify as black and/or African American.

So the Celtic Curse blog would love to see President Obama get tested for mutations of the hemochromatosis (HFE) gene and share the results of his test as a way to raise the world’s awareness of this widely under-diagnosed and potentially fatal genetic condition. In fact, it would be great to see ALL members of the U.S. congress take the same test. The amount of money America would save if more people were aware of this condition is huge (huge as in a trillion dollars, which is the topic of our next blog post).

We’re not joking about the President getting tested. This is serious stuff. Just consider the following extract from a study by the Journal of the National Cancer Institute: “Although HFE gene mutations were less common among the African-American subjects than they were among the white subjects, African-Americans who possessed an HFE gene mutation were at greater risk of colon cancer (OR = 2.1, 95% CI = 1.1 to 3.9) than were whites who possessed an HFE gene mutation (OR = 1.2, 95% CI = 0.8 to 1.6).” See full article.

In other words, HFE gene mutations need to be taken seriously, and people need to find out if they have them, sooner rather than later. If hemochromatosis is caught early then damage to organs and joints can be avoided through regular blood donations (it’s hard to think of another health condition where the cure is so cheap and actually gives back to society like that).

So please, President Obama, get your HFE checked and tell the world about Celtic Curse.

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