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Hum Reprod. 2007 Mar;22(3):696-701. Epub 2006 Dec 12.

Paternal age and birth defects: how strong is the association?

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OMNI Research Group, Ottawa Hospital Research Institute, Ottawa, Canada.



Although the association between maternal age and the risks of birth defects has been well studied, the evidence from population data linking paternal age with birth defects was limited and inconsistent.


We conducted a population-based retrospective cohort study of 5,213,248 subjects from the 1999-2000 birth registration data of the USA. Multiple logistic regressions were used to estimate the independent effect of paternal age on all birth defects and 21 specific defects groups after adjusting for potential confounding of maternal age, race, education, marital status, parity, prenatal care initiation, maternal smoking and alcohol drinking during pregnancy.


A total of 77,514 (1.5%) birth defects were recorded in the study cohort. The adjusted odds ratios were 1.04 (1.01, 1.06), 1.08 (1.04, 1.12), 1.08 (1.02, 1.14) and 1.15 (1.06, 1.24), respectively, for infants born to fathers 30-35, 40-44, 45-49 and over 50 years (test for trend, P = 0.0155), when compared with those infants born to fathers aged 25-29 for any birth defect. Advanced paternal age was associated with increased risks of heart defects, tracheo-oesophageal fistulaoesophageal atresia, other musculoskeletal/integumental anomalies, Down's syndrome and other chromosomal anomalies. Fathers under 25 years of age were also at increased risks of spina bifida/meningocele, microcephalus, omphalocele/gastroschisis and other musculoskeletal/integumental anomalies.


Infants born to older fathers have a slightly increased risk of birth defects. Young paternal age is also associated with slightly increased risk of several selected birth defects in their offspring. However, given the weak association, paternal age appears to play a small role in the aetiology of birth defects.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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