Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Older fathers bad for kids?

More speculation presented as fact below. The fact that the relationship between mortality and age was non-linear looks very suspicious. Since sperm decline is as far as I know quite linear with age, blaming sperm quality for the effects observed seems a big stretch.

The researchers explain the non-linearity by pointing to the characteristics of the mother in the case of young fathers but somehow take remarkably little interest in the mothers where older fathers are concerned. Apparently, it HAD to be the fathers at fault.

That women who marry older men might be different from other women in all sorts of ways seems not to have been considered. Might not those differences have health consequences? Might such women be ON AVERAGE (Yes. I know about Catherine Zeta Jones and Sophia Loren) more "desperate" or more "mercenary" and might that not have something to do with the health of their children? A desperate woman might for instance be less attractive and that might stem from poorer health. Or a mercenary woman might take less care of her children. That the kids of older fathers tend to die more from poisoning would certainly suggest the latter possibility rather than the father's sperm being at fault. It's all speculation but so are the explanations presented below.

It never ceases to amaze me that I have to point out such obvious things

A mass study found that deaths of children fathered by over-45s occurred at almost twice the rate of those fathered by men aged between 25 and 30. Scientists believe that children of older fathers are more likely to suffer particular congenital defects as well as autism, schizophrenia and epilepsy. The study was the first of its kind of such magnitude in the West, and researchers believe the findings are linked to the declining quality of sperm as men age.

A total of 100,000 children born between 1980 and 1996 were examined, of whom 830 have so far died before they reached 18, the majority when they were less than a year old.

The deaths of many of the children of the older fathers were related to congenital defects such as problems of the heart and spine, which increase the risk of infant mortality. But there were also higher rates of accidental death, which the researchers believe might be explained by the increased likelihood of suffering from autism, epilepsy or schizophrenia.

Most research into older parents has, until now, focused on the risks passed on by older mothers. But the new study, published in the European Journal of Epidemiology, was adjusted to take account of maternal age and socio-economic differences.

The research also found higher death rates among children of the youngest fathers, especially those below the age of 19. However, the study said these differences were explained by the risks of teenage motherhood and poorer diet and lifestyle. Previous research using the same data found that older men were four times as likely to father a child with Down's syndrome, while other studies have found that the genetic quality of sperm deteriorates as men age.

More than 75,000 babies in Britain are born to fathers aged 40 and over each year, or more than one in 10 of all births. This includes more than 6,000 born to fathers aged 50 or over. The average age of fathering a child in this country is 32.

Dr Allan Pacey, senior lecturer in andrology - the medical specialty dealing with male reproduction - at the University of Sheffield, said: "A lot of people know that there are risks for the child that come from having an older mother, but children of older fathers also carry an increased risk. These sorts of results provide another good reason to have children early, when possible." Dr Pacey, who is secretary of the British Fertility Society, said scientists were unsure exactly what impact the ageing process had on the quality of sperm, making it impossible to detect defects before conception.

Dr Jin Liang Zhu, from the Danish Epidemiology Science Centre, which carried out the research, said: "The risks of older fatherhood can be very profound, and it is not something that people are always aware of."

The mother's age still has the bigger impact on child health, however. About one in 900 babies born to women under 30 have Down's syndrome - a figure which reaches one in 100 by the age of 40. The number of over-40s giving birth in Britain each year has doubled in the past decade to 16,000. The risk of miscarriage rises sharply with age.


Journal abstract:

Paternal age and mortality in children

Zhu JL et al.

Background: Since paternal age correlates with some diseases that have a high case-fatality, a paternal age effect on offspring's survival is expected but unsettled. We examined the association between paternal age and mortality in children in a large population-based cohort taking maternal age and socioeconomic factors into account.

Methods: From the Danish Fertility Database (1980-1996), we identified 102,879 couples and their firstborn singleton children. Information on childhood death (N = 831) was obtained by linking the cohort to the nationwide register on cause of death (1980-1998).

Results: We observed a U-shaped association between paternal age and the overall mortality rate in children up to 18 years of age. Adjustment for maternal age and other confounders reduced the mortality rate ratio (MRR) for children of younger fathers but not for children of older fathers. Compared with children of fathers aged between 25 and 29 years, the adjusted MRR was 1.77 (95% confidence interval 1.28-2.45) for children of fathers aged between 45 and 49 years and 1.59 (1.03-2.46) for children of fathers aged 50 years or more. The cause-specific MRRs were highest for congenital malformations [2.35 (1.42-3.88)] and injury or poisoning [3.43 (1.49-7.92)] for children of fathers aged 45 years or more.

Conclusion: Our data revealed a higher mortality in offspring of fathers aged 45 years or more that lasted into adulthood. This adds to the cumulating evidence on adverse effects of advanced paternal age in procreation.

Eur J Epidemiol. 2008 Apr 25

Fighting spirit has no impact on cancer

The popular belief that a positive attitude can help fight cancer has been debunked by a group of Australian specialists who have proved a fighting spirit does not improve a patient's survival chances. The Melbourne researchers say they realise their findings, presented at a major cancer conference in Chicago today, might not impress the majority of patients who believe their outlook can help their diagnosis, but they say it could be good news too.

"People often really beat themselves up and blame their attitude if their cancer relapses," said Professor Kelly-Anne Phillips, a medical oncologist at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre in Melbourne. "We've shown absolutely that you're not at fault. You cannot influence your cancer with positive or negative thinking, depression, a fighting spirit, or any other factor. "That should be reassuring, but I guess it could cut both ways."

The study involved 708 women in the Australian Breast Cancer Family Study who had been newly-diagnosed with localised breast cancer and tracked them over eight years to see whether their cancer relapsed. A quarter died over the period.

Levels of depression, anxiety and other factors like fatalist outlook, avoidance, anger, and feelings of hopelessness were also assessed. "Essentially the bottom line is we didn't find any correlation at all between these issues and whether their cancer came back," Prof Phillips said. "This goes against what the vast majority of patients believe."

Interestingly, women who had an anxious preoccupation with their cancer were more likely to get a relapse, but once the researchers adjusted for all the things known to cause recurrence, like size and grade of the tumour, this association disappeared, she said. "The women who were anxiously preoccupied were the ones that had the worst tumours, so they were anxious and preoccupied for a reason," said Prof Phillips.

She said women may not like the news as it might make them feel like they have little control of their outcome, "but it's important to see the upside too".

Cancer Council Australia chief executive Professor Ian Olver said he had been involved in a smaller study in lung cancer that reached a similar conclusion. "A positive attitude is great and it clearly helps quality of life when you're going through treatment but it makes an undetectable difference to disease," he said.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

If this crap is true about older fathers breeding kids with birth defects and being responsible for a higher infant mortality rate than younger fathers, then why don’t you ever hear about this sort of thing happening over in Japan? According to a report that Bill Maher read on “Real Time With Bill Maher,” 61 percent of all males in Japan have never as so much been in the arms of a woman by the time they are 35 years of age. Therefore, Japanese men usually do not wed until they’re either in their forties, fifties, or later and, therefore, they father children later in life. Yet you never hear any stories about babies in that country being born with birth defects or dying at birth in mass numbers. In fact, people are healthier in that country than in the United States of America insofar as they mostly live past 100 years old. Oprah Winfrey even once said on her show that one is considered to be a kid until he or she is 52 years of age in the Japanese culture. Every time I hear about one of these adverse studies about older fathers, I get suspicious that they are being funded by some ultraconservative prima donna politician like Mike Huckabee, who married his puppy love sweetheart at age 19 and started fatherhood at a young age and obviously believes that everyone else should live their lives that way.