Indexed on: 04 Nov '04Published on: 04 Nov '04Published in: Clinical Genetics
Familial hypercholesterolemia (FH) is caused by a mutation in the low-density lipoprotein receptor gene and is characterized by hypercholesterolemia, xanthomas, and premature coronary heart disease. Heterozygotes typically have values for total serum cholesterol in the range of 7-15 mmol/l and efficient lipid-lowering drug therapy is available. However, only approximately 20% of patients are diagnosed and less than 10% are being adequately treated. The most cost-effective strategy to diagnose patients with FH is to screen close relatives of patients already diagnosed with FH. This is referred to as cascade genetic screening. This review focuses on organization of a cascade genetic screening program for FH as well as cost-efficiency assessments, health benefits, possible adverse effects, and the screening of children. The author concludes that cascade genetic screening for FH leads to health benefits and is cost-effective without causing psychological or social damage. Accordingly, national cascade genetic screening programs for FH should be part of ordinary health care.