Researchers find older mothers more likely to have autistic kids

08:53, February 09, 2010      

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Children born to older moms are more likely to develop autism, U.S. researchers suggest.

Researchers from University of California, Davis, came to the conclusion after analyzing data of the nearly 5 million births in California between 1990 and 1999, a decade in which autism incidence increased 600 percent statewide.

A woman who gave birth at age 40 or older had a more than 50 percent greater chance of having a child with autism than a woman who gave birth between 25 and 29, and a 77 percent greater chance of having an autistic child than a woman who gave birth before the age of 25, according to the study published in the Feb. 8 online issue of the journal Autism Research.

The researchers reckoned that a woman's risk of having a child diagnosed with autism rose by 18 percent for each five-year increment in her age.

But dad's age didn't matter unless father was older, and mom much younger, the study found. This contradicts with previous researches which indicated that older dads are more likely to have a child with autism

Men over 40 who had a child with a woman under 30 had a nearly 60 percent increased risk of having a child diagnosed with autism compared to men aged 25 to 29 who fathered a child with a young woman, said the study.

Among mothers over 30, the increased risk associated with having a baby with a man older than 40 dissipated, according to the study.

"Advancing maternal age is contributing only a very small proportion of the increase in autism cases," said study author Janie Shelton, a UC Davis doctoral student. Geraldine Dawson, chief science officer for Autism Speaks, praised researchers for using such a large database to uncover the impact each parent's age can have on autism risk. But she also urged older mothers not to worry unnecessarily.

"We need to look at this finding in context," Dawson said. " This study is important, but we are not going to find one factor that can explain this dramatic increase in the prevalence of autism. We are going to find multiple factors, and advanced maternal age appears to be one of them."

Source: Xinhua
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