Is Dupuytren's Disease Handed Down through Your Genes? Scientists Search Northern Norway for Clues
Dupuytren's disease happens when tissues in the palm of the hand become shorter and thicker. It often causes the small and ring fingers to curl into the palm. The cause of this condition is unknown. Because it is common in white populations but not in other races, scientists think there may be a genetic component to the disease. Dupuytren's disease is especially common in people of northern Europe. In Norway, 18 percent of men and six percent of women over age 50 are affected by the disease.

There is an aboriginal population in northern Norway called the Sami. Originally from the northernmost part of Scandinavia, the Sami are ethnically distinct from most Norwegians and have no reported cases of Dupuytren's disease. Researchers decided to look for Dupuytren's disease in Sami and ethnic Norwegians. Differences between the two groups might shed light on the genetic nature of the disease.

Researchers examined 456 people over the age of 50 who lived in northern Norway. Dupuytren's disease was found in 31 men and three women. Sami men were somewhat less likely than Norwegian men to have Dupuytren's disease. Eight percent of Sami men showed the disease, versus 16 percent of Norwegians. In addition, Sami grandparents were less likely than Norwegian grandparents to have a grandson with Dupuytren's disease.

The researchers were surprised to find that Dupuytren's disease wasn't that uncommon among Sami, after all. The presence of the disease among Sami could come from mixing with the general Norwegian population. Still, the disease was less common among Sami than among Norwegians, confirming the importance of genetics in Dupuytren's disease.
References
Vilhjalmur Finsen, Dr Med, Henrik Dalen, and Julie Nesheim. The Prevalence of Dupuytren's Disease Among Two Different Ethnic Groups in Northern Norway. In The Journal of Hand Surgery. January 2002. Vol. 27A. No. 1. Pp. 115-117.