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Eur J Hum Genet. 2015 Apr;23(4):466-72. doi: 10.1038/ejhg.2014.122. Epub 2014 Jul 9.

An unexpected finding: younger fathers have a higher risk for offspring with chromosomal aneuploidies.

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Institute of Medical Genetics, University of Zurich, Schwerzenbach, Switzerland.
Biostatistics Unit, Institute for Social and Preventive Medicine, University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland.


The past decades have seen a remarkable shift in the demographics of childbearing in Western countries. The risk for offspring with chromosomal aneuploidies with advancing maternal age is well known, but most studies failed to demonstrate a paternal age effect. Retrospectively, we analyzed two case data sets containing parental ages from pre- and postnatal cases with trisomies 21, 13 and 18. The reference data set contains the parental ages of the general Swiss population. We dichotomized all couples into two distinct groups. In the first group, the mothers' integral age was as least as the father's age or older. We compared the frequency of cases in nine 5-year intervals of maternal age. In addition, we computed logistic regression models for the binary endpoint aneuploidy yes/no where paternal ages were incorporated as linear or quadratic, as well as smooth functions within a generalized additive model framework. We demonstrated that the proportion of younger fathers is uniformly different between cases and controls of live-born trisomy 21 as well, although not reaching significance, for fetuses over all mother's ages. Logistic regression models with different strategies to incorporate paternal ages confirmed our findings. The negative paternal age effect was also found in pre- and postnatal cases taken together with trisomies 13 and 18. The couples with younger fathers face almost twofold odds for a child with Down syndrome (DS). We estimated odds curves for parental ages. If confirmation of these findings can be achieved, the management of couples at risk needs a major correction of the risk stratification.

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