Who is affected by sickle cell disease

Sickle cell disease is an inherited disorder. More specifically, sickle cell disease is an autosomal recessive disease. This means that to have the disease, a person must inherit an abnormal gene from both parents.

People whose ancestors were from Africa, India, the Middle East, the Mediterranean (Turkey, Italy, Greece), and some Latin American countries are more likely to inherit the gene that can cause sickle cell disease. In the United States, the disease mainly affects African Americans (1 out of 650) and Latin Americans (1 out of 1,000 to 1,400).1 About 8 out of 100 African Americans carry the sickle cell gene.1

Some people inherit one sickle cell gene and one other defective hemoglobin gene. This results in similar sickle cell disorders ranging from mild to severe. As a group, these disorders occur as frequently as does sickle cell disease in the U.S.


  1. Wang WC (2004). Sickle cell anemia and other sickling syndromes. In JP Greer et al., eds., Wintrobe's Clinical Hematology, 11th ed., pp. 1264–1311. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.

Last Updated: December 9, 2008

Author: Debby Golonka, MPH

Medical Review: Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine & Martin Steinberg, MD - Hematology

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