The age of the father is an important determinant of the health of future generations.
THE AGE OF THE FATHER AND THE
HEALTH OF FUTURE GENERATIONS
Word Count: 903
Leslie B. Raschka M.D., Associate Professor (retired),
Department of Psychiatry, University of Toronto
Address: 27 Edgecombe ave, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
M5N 2Xl, Tel. (416) 783-6938
Purpose: To assess the role of paternal age in the origin of genetic illness in future generations.
Data Sources: All reference data originated in English language international scientific literature and findings of original research conducted by myself.
Study Selection: Original articles published between 1938 and 1998 were selected according to the stated purpose. One article was written by myself.
Data Extraction: The present paper deals with 4 subtopics: andrology, genetics, pathology, and psychiatry.
Results: Nine articles reporting on 1399 patients described the deterioration of the quality of semen related to ageing. Five articles reported an increased mutation rate in the male germ cells as compared to the female germ cell. Twenty-four articles reported on 1230 patients and related studies described paternal age effect on increased mutation rate causing genetic illness. Eight articles reporting on 10,347 patients described increased prevalence of mental illness as related to older paternal age.
Conclusions: cChildren conceived by fathers older than 34 years of age are at increased risk for genetic illness due to recent mutation in the male germ cell.
3The genetic illness of a child could originate in a mutation related to the age of the father or to a mutation in the spermatogenesis caused by ageing in previous generations. The ageing process in the male is an important, probably the most important, cause of genetic illness in human populations.
Key Words: Age of the father, mutation, genetic illness
4 Demographic changes taking place in the 20th Century have directed attention to all possible determinants of the health of future generations. The relationship between maternal age and Down Syndrome is a currently recognized scientific fact. The study of the reproductive efficiency of the male is also relevant to the health of future generations. Most children are born healthy regardless of paternal age; however, the age of the father is a determinant of ill health for a significant minority in future generations.
Ageing in the male is expressed in a progressive decline both in the quality and quantity of the sperm (1). Changes include a decrease in motility (2), decreased vitality and an increased percentage of malformed sperm (3, 4, 5, 6, 7). The deterioration associated with ageing can be noticed first in men between the ages of 35 to 40 years (8, 9).
The mutation rate is higher in the male than in the female germ cell (10, 11, 12, 13, 14). While the ageing male germ cell is especially sensitive to mutation (15) there is a significant difference in mutation, rates among different genes. There is evidence that mutation frequencies for a number of different genes causing illness increase with advancing paternal age. The rate of increase differs among different genes (16); not all genes are subject to the paternal age effect. Almost all new mutations were reported to occur in the male germ cell; however, paternal age effect is not equally pronounced in all mutations (12). It is operant in recent germline mutations. Inherited illnesses such as hemophilia A have their origins in mutations in earlier generations where, for example, increased maternal grandparental age was found and new germline mutation related to increased paternal age transmitted to future generations can result in hereditary illness. In the development of illness, more than one gene can be involved. The phenotypic expression can be influenced by modifying genes. The importance of mutations for the health of future generations was born out by the Bulletin of the World Health Organization 1986 (17), which states that about 1% of children will be born with a serious genetic disease and another 1% will develop a serious genetic illness later in life.
The relationship between increased paternal age and pathological conditions of known genetic origin was reported for achondroplasia in nineteen publications (15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34); for Apert Syndrome in sixteen publications (15, 19, 20, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35); on Marfan Syndrome in thirteen publications (15, 20, 21, 22, 23, 25, 26, 27, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34); on osteogenesis imperfecta in five publications (16, 19, 24, 25, 29); on basal cell naevus syndrome in three publications (22, 26, 32); in Waardenburg Syndrome in five publications (22, 26, 31, 32, 33); on Crouzon Syndrome in seven publications (22, 26, 28, 31, 32, 33, 35); on oculo-denta; digital syndrome in four publications (22, 26, 31, 32); on thanatophoric dysplasia in three publications (28, 29, 35); on Pfeiffer Syndrome in three publications (28, 32, 35); on tuberous sclerosis in three publications (31, 33, 36); on multiple endocrine neoplasm in three publications (32, 34, 37); on myositis ossificans in nine publications (15, 19, 21, 22, 24, 30, 31, 32, 33); and on Treacher Collins disease, four publications (22, 26, 31, 33). All of these illnesses are transmitted in an autosomal dominant fashion. Increased risk for X-linked conditions associated with increased maternal grand-parental age is known to exist regarding classical hemophilia and was reported in nine publications (15, 17, 23, 25, 26 31, 32, 34, 38). This is also true for Lesch-Nyhan syndrome, reported in five publications (10, 17, 27, 31, 38). The mutation is transmitted to the child through carrier mothers.
Mutations occurring in the course of gametogenesis in the male and the association of psychosis was described in one article (39). Older maternal and paternal age in schizophrenia was reported in four articles (39, 40, 41, 42). My own study involving 574 patients has shown that the increased age of the father is a causative factor in a sub-group of the schizophrenic population (43). Two other articles, reporting on 662 and 8000 patients respectively, confirmed my conclusions, as well as indicating that increased maternal age was secondary to increased paternal age (41, 42). Three articles reporting on 1081 patients described increased paternal age in Alzheimer’s disease (44, 45, 46).
All genetic illnesses have their origin in a distant or recent mutation. Paternal age is an important determinant of mutation frequency in new germ cell mutation, causing both autosomal dominant and X-linked recessive illnesses. The role of other mutagenic factors is not the subject of this study. The results of my own research are supported by other information which indicates that the leading cause of genetic illness present in human populations is the ageing process in the male. Conceiving children by men younger than 35 years of age would prevent many genetic illnesses in future generations.
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Diabetes age of parents etc risk factor 2005
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