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2 Aug 2017

Study shows children born to mothers over age 30 risk cancer

Women who have children after the age of 30 face a greater risk of their offspring developing cancer, scientists have discovered.
Illustration purpose
Those who were over 35 were more likely to have infants linked to an increased risk of leukaemia diagnoses – especially acute lymphoblastic leukemia – as well as non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

For those between the age of 30 and 34, a link was found for Hodgkin lymphoma.

The association may be due to an increase in chromosomal mutations in older people, say the researchers.

The findings are worrying, given that the age at which couples are having babies has been rising in recent years.

“We knew that parental age was a risk factor for childhood cancer,” study author Dr. Julia Heck, associate professor at the University of California, Los Angeles School of Public Health, affirm.

“In most cases, older parents confer greater risk, but in some instances, very young (teenage) parents may also have offspring with higher cancer rates. We wanted to explore this relationship in our population-based study.”

A team from the University of Denmark and UCLA examined 5,856 cancer cases of Danish children who were diagnosed before the age of 16.

They looked at the age of parents and cases were classified into age groups.
Heck said she was not surprised at the results.

“Older parental age was a risk factor for various childhood cancers in Danish children,” she said.

“The usual explanation is that there are increasing chromosomal aberrations with older parental ages.”

Increasing new mutations that happen in sperm or egg cells are linked with older age in parents.”

She pointed out we already know that older parents have a greater risk of having a child with Down’s syndrome.

“Similarly, there is the greater risk of Down’s syndrome in the children of older mothers; fathers are studied less often but there are reports of increases in the risk of birth defects related to single gene mutations, as well as neurodevelopmental disorders.”

The study found a stronger correlation between maternal age and childhood cancer risk than for fathers.

There was a ‘slight increase’ in leukaemia and non-Hodgkin lymphoma for the children of older men.

But age aside, there are other steps that soon-to-be parents can take that may promote the health of their baby, Dr. Heck suggested.

These include limiting alcohol intake, not smoking and limiting exposure to chemicals as much as possible.

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