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Older fathers more likely to have autistic children

13 cases and one case, respectively, of autism spectrum disorders. Advancing age among fathers was associated with increased risk of autism. This association persisted after the researchers controlled for year of birth, socioeconomic status and the mother's age, such that the odds of autism spectrum disorder were nearly six times greater among children of men age 40 and older than those of men 29 years and younger. Older age among mothers was not associated with autism after researchers factored in the effect of the father's age.

The authors discuss several possible genetic mechanisms for the paternal age effect, including spontaneous mutations in sperm-producing cells or alterations in genetic "imprinting," which affects gene expression. "It is important to keep in mind, however, that age at paternity is influenced by the sociocultural environment and varies across societies and over time," they continue. "In a given population, a change in the sociocultural environment could produce a change in paternal age at birth. In theory, it could thereby lead to a change in the incidence of genetic causes of autism."

"Although further work is necessary to confirm this interpretation, we believe that our study provides the first convincing evidence that advanced paternal age is a risk factor for autism spectrum disorder," they conclude.


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Source:JAMA and Archives Journals


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