Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

Older Paternal Age Tied to Autism in Offspring

Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

Older Paternal Age Tied to Autism in Offspring

Article excerpt

Older men are at higher risk of fathering autistic children than are younger men, results of a large cohort study suggest.

After a man reaches his 20s, the risk of fathering an autistic boy or girl more than doubles with every 10-year increase in his age. This increase is independent of other factors such as the mother's age and the family's socioeconomic status, reported Abraham Reichenberg, Ph.D., of Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, and his associates.

Older paternal age at the birth of offspring is associated with several congenital disorders, and it also has been linked to schizophrenia and to decreased intellectual capacity. Previous studies examining a possible link between paternal age and autism risk have produced mixed results, but "few have systematically examined this association in rigorous designs that included adjustment for maternal age," Dr. Reichenberg and his associates said (Arch. Gen. Psychiatry 2006;63:1026-32).

They conducted a very large population-based cohort study "specifically designed for a rigorous test of the hypothesis that advancing paternal age is associated with increased risk of ASD [autism spectrum disorder] in offspring."

The investigators used data collected on a cohort of 378,891 Israelis born during a consecutive 6-year period in the 1980s and evaluated at age 17 by the Israeli draft board, which determines intellectual, medical, and psychiatric eligibility for the country's compulsory military service. The birth dates of both mothers and fathers were available in 132,271 members of the cohort.

The draft board also reviews detailed medical records on all Israelis with developmental disabilities, including the virtually 100% of children and adolescents diagnosed with ASDs who receive universal health care and other services through government agencies.

The overall prevalence of autism spectrum disorders in this cohort was 8.4 cases per 10,000 persons.

The risk of ASDs increased significantly with advancing paternal age and was "especially strong" in offspring of the oldest men. Compared with fathers in their late teens or twenties, the risk of fathering an autistic child was 1.6 times higher among men in their 30s, 5. …

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