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Epidemiology. 1999 Nov;10(6):747-51.

Parental age and risk of sporadic and familial cancer in offspring: implications for germ cell mutagenesis.

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Department of Biosciences at Novum, Karolinska Institute, Huddinge, Sweden.


We used the nationwide Swedish Family-Cancer Database to analyze the effect of parental age on cancer in offspring at ages 15-53 years. We studied 13 cancer sites, including 37,877 people. Data on familial and sporadic cancers were analyzed separately. We adjusted for age of spouse, year of diagnosis, and birth order. Rate ratios (RRs) were calculated by Poisson regression. Maternal age was associated with sporadic melanoma and leukemia, causing a 30% excess if mothers were more than 40 years vs. less than 20 years of age. A marginal effect of about 10% of both maternal and paternal age was observed for sporadic breast cancer. Paternal age increased the RR of sporadic nervous system cancer by about 15%. Accumulation of chromosomal aberrations and mutations during the maturation of germ cells may be a mechanism for these findings. In familial cancers of colon, melanoma, and thyroid, higher age showed an apparent protective effect, which was also noted for sporadic cervical cancer and melanoma. The results argue against major age-induced mutagenic/carcinogenic effects on germ cells as well as against age-induced adverse cancer-related hormonal effects during pregnancy. Because two or more mutations are required for adult cancers, however, these cancers may be an insensitive indicator of germ cell mutagenesis.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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