Health burden of genetic disorders is high in the Arab worldBMJ 2006; 333 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.333.7573.0 (Published 19 October 2006) Cite this as: BMJ 2006;333:0
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Consanguineous marriage is a marriage between second cousins or
closer relatives. Its main health-related risk is the expression in the
offspring of autosomal recessive disorders when both parents carry the
same deleterious gene. In Pakistan, 36% of marriages are between first
cousins and 11% between other relatives(1). Disproportionately high infant
mortality and occurrence of congenital malformations in immigrants from
Pakistan in the UK (2) warranted studies on changes in marriage patterns
in this population over time. Contrary to expectations, the UK-born
Pakistanis seem to have even higher proportions of first-cousin marriages
(55-59%) than the pioneer immigrants (33-37%) (3-4). We failed to find
studies reporting decrease in consanguinity in immigrant communities in
Norway is the only country that records information on parental
consanguinity for all newborn children. The information is registered in
the Medical Birth Registry of Norway (MBRN). We used the data from the
MBRN on all first births of Pakistani women from 1995 through June 2005 to
study the pattern of consanguineous marriages in this group by generation
and over time. The results suggest that the proportions of first-cousin
marriages decreased from 37.7% in 1995-1997 to 24.7% in 2002-2005 among
immigrants and from 43.3% to 16.7% in the next generation during the same
period. Moreover, the proportion of births to unrelated subjects increased
from 50.9% to 65.5% among immigrants and from 50.0% to 76.3% in the next
generation during the corresponding period. After adjustment for education
and age in log-binomial regression the differences remained significant.
Thus, contrary to what was reported from the UK, the proportion of
consanguineous marriages among Norwegian Pakistanis seems to decrease. The
underlying factors responsible for these findings remain to be identified.
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Lahore, Punjab, Pakistan. Biologia 1982; 28:1-15.
2. Modell B, Darr A. Science and society: genetic counselling and
customary consanguineous marriage. Nat Rev Genet 2002; 3:225-9.
3. Darr A, Modell B. The frequency of consanguineous marriage among
British Pakistanis. J Med Genet 1988; 25:186-90.
4. Shaw A. Kinship, cultural preference and immigration: consanguineous
marriage among British Pakistanis. J Royal Anthr Inst 2001; 7:315-34.
Competing interests: No competing interests