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Older fathers may increase chance of dying before adulthood

09 June 2008

By Dr Kirsty Horsey

Appeared in BioNews 461

A new study has shown that becoming a father after the age of 45 increases the likelihood that the resulting child will die before reaching adulthood. The researchers, based at the University of Aarhus in Denmark, who published their findings in the European Journal of Epidemiology, say that the reason for this is the decline in the quality of sperm as men age.

The research shows that children born from older fathers are more likely to suffer from a number of birth defects and conditions such as autism, schizophrenia or epilepsy. The majority of deaths were found to be caused by congenital defects that increased the risk of infant mortality, such as heart problems.

Children born to men aged 45 and above were found to be up to 88 per cent more likely to die before adulthood than those born to men aged between 25 and 29, the researchers found. The researchers looked at 100,000 children born between 1980 and 1996 using data taken from the Danish Fertility Database, and found that 831 of these had died before reaching the age of 13 - 601 of these died in their first year. Similar results were found for men who fathered children while still in their teens, but could perhaps be explained by their mothers also being young and often therefore disadvantaged, say the researchers.

Jin Liang Zhu, from the Danish Epidemiology Science Centre, and lead researcher in the study, said that 'the risks of older fatherhood can be very profound, and it is not something that people are always aware of'. People tend to be far more aware of the risks associated with older mothers, such as the increased prevalence of Down Syndrome, although it has also previously been shown that this may be affected by the father's age as well.

Speaking to the Melbourne Herald Sun, Professor Les Sheffield, a clinical geneticist from Melbourne's Murdoch Childrens Research Institute, explained that genetic errors in sperm increase by half a per cent when a man reaches 40, by 2 per cent when he is 50, by 5 per cent when he is 60 and by 20 per cent by the time he is 80. He added that on the basis of this, 'men around 40 ought to be thinking about the increased risk to their children, the same as women do'.

Dr Kirsty Horsey is Contributing Editor at BioNews. She is coeditor of Human Fertilisation and Embryology: Reproducing Regulation (buy this book from Amazon UK) and coauthor of Tort Law (buy this book from Amazon UK) and Skills For Law Students (buy this book from Amazon UK).

Herald Sun | 03 June 2008
United Press International | 02 June 2008
Children of older fathers 'more likely to die early'
The Mail on Sunday | 02 June 2008
Chicago Tribune | 02 June 2008


30 June 2014 - by Siobhan Chan 
The age of sperm donors has no impact on the chances of having a baby via IVF and donor insemination, a study has found...
28 August 2012 - by Helen Brooks 
Children of older fathers inherit more genetic mutations than those of younger fathers, according to Icelandic scientists....
18 June 2012 - by Sarah Pritchard 
Children born to men who delay fatherhood may live longer, a US study has shown. The findings indicate that as men age, the telomeres in sperm appear to lengthen, offering a protective effect against the cell aging process - a benefit which could be passed on to future generations...
02 November 2009 - by Heidi Colleran 
Researchers from the University of Oxford and Copenhagen University Hospital have discovered a surprising link between the development of rare but benign testicular tumors and the genetic transmission of certain genetic diseases, such as achondroplasia (commonly known as dwarfism), Apert, Noonan and Costello syndromes, as well as some conditions causing stillbirth. The study, funded by the Wellcome Trust and the Danish Cancer Society, and published in the journal Nature Genetics, could help e...

04 August 2006 - by Letitia Hughes 
New research from US scientists, based at the Columbia University School of Public Health and the New York Psychiatric Institute, suggests that woman who become pregnant by older men are at greater risk of miscarriage. Results indicate that as the male partner ages there is a steady...
08 May 2006 - by Dr Kirsty Horsey 
French researchers have published a study showing new evidence that male fertility declines as they get older. The study's authors, who published their findings in the journal Fertility and Sterility, warn that men's lack of awareness of this fact - and of their own biology - may play...

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