Can Hernias Be Inherited?

Jane Akre
March 15, 2022
Explanted Hernia Mesh

It's a Common Question - Can Hernias Be Inherited?

This is a common question from people who tend to find hernias run in the family. Is there something about your genetics, specifically your genome, that makes it much more likely you will suffer from a hernia?

An inguinal hernia is a weakening of the abdominal wall. Because it is holding back the intestines under some pressure, the internal organs will push against the opening and poke through.

Inguinal hernias are among the most commonly performed operations in the world. They are found in 20-27% of men and 3 to 6% of women. 

Inguinal surgery is common, too, accounting for more than 75 percent of all abdominal wall hernias. There are more than 750,000 inguinal hernia surgeries performed in the U.S. annually. 

African American men are found to have a lower incidence compared to Caucasians. However, the risks increase among those with a family history of inguinal hernias, especially women.

But it is not known why this occurs unless there is some genetic component? Are some people predisposed to developing inguinal hernias?

According to a study, published in Human Molecular Genetics, yes, for specific populations, a specific location on the genome is associated with an increased risk of developing an inguinal hernia.

The lead author Helene Chodquet, Ph.D., a researcher with Kaiser Permanente’s Division of Research looked at a total of 513,120 adults from a Kaiser Permanente and UK Biobank database.  

The findings were confirmed using 23andMe research. The patients represented diverse ancestry populations. 

Among the findings:

*There are 41 new genome locations associated with the risk of inguinal hernia.

* Eight locations on the genome are specific to sex, explaining the difference between men and women.

* There were two locations associated with the risk of inguinal hernia among those with African ancestry.

* Some of the inguinal hernia locations were previously associated with diverticular disease. 

In the future, Choquet plans to look at the genetics of other types of hernias and among those who have recurrent hernias. Further study will be needed to determine the impact of heavy physical exercise and activity and the inguinal hernia risk


Another study by Eric Jorgenson, Ph.D. and published in Nature Communications in 2015, identified four new genetic locations associated with the risk of hernias among those of European ancestry.

First-degree relatives with a history of inguinal hernia increase the risk of relatives, specifically men.

Other findings from Jorgenson:

  • Dysregulation of collagen homeostasis is thought to play an important role in the development of inguinal hernias. Transversalis fascia taken from patients with indirect inguinal hernias were found to have lower levels of collagen compared to cadaver controls.

  • Elastin is also a key component of transversalis fascia. It complements the role of collagen and provides elasticity to the tissue. Mutations in the elastin gene have been associated with an increased risk of inguinal hernias.

  • The average age of adult-onset inguinal hernia was found to be 66.2 years.


Human Molecular Genetics, January 2022

Nature Communications, December 2015

23andMe Blog

Kaiser Permanente

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