March 02, 2007

Older Men at Increased Risk of Fathering Children with Schizophrenia

Many people know that as women age, their fertility diminishes. Egg cells age over the years and eventually women pass a stage when egg cells are available at all. However, the New York Times is reminding men that their reproductive capacity is affected over the years as well. As men age not only does their fertility diminish, but even more disturbingly, the quality of their sperm's DNA can diminish as well. Beginning in men's 40s, this lowering of sperm quality can increase the likelihood of their offspring being born with developmental problems caused by genetic abnormalities such as autism and schizophrenia.

Studies have found the risk of children of fathers over the age of 40 having an autistic-spectrum disorder is almost 6 times greater than children of fathers under the age of 30.

For schizophrenia, researchers found the following data for age vs risk, compared to fathers under age 25:

SZ Table Father Relative Risk.JPG

According to a study conducted by Dr. Dolores Malaspina, chairwoman of the psychiatry department at New York University Medical Center, the following paternal age-associated risks of schizophrenia were found:

SZ Table Father Absolute Risk.JPG

Pointed out in the article is that as a man ages, so does every cell in his body, including the cells that create sperm. Analysis of sperm samples has found that as men age, problems begin to be seen with the sperm produced, including increased fragmentation of DNA. Pamela Madsen, executive director of the American Fertility Association, a national education and advocacy group says:

"It takes two to make a baby, and men who one day want to become fathers need to wake up, read what’s out there and take responsibility. ... I don’t see why everyone is so surprised. Everyone ages. Why would sperm cells be the only cells not to age as men get older?"
But just as there are lifestyles that have harmful effects on cells throughout the body, effectively damaging and aging them (such as smoking), there are changes that people can make to help keep their cells as healthy as possible. Dr. Harry Fisch, director of the Male Reproductive Center at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center and the author of "The Male Biological Clock" suggests men help keep their sperm healthy by practicing healthy lifestyles such as exercising regularly and eating a balanced diet, and avoiding things which can harm sperm quality such as smoking, using anabolic steroids, and using hot tubs

Read the full article: It Seems the Fertility Clock Ticks for Men, Too (Free Registration Required)

Additional Reading: Older Age of Father increases risk of Schizophrenia

Father's Age Linked to Schizophrenia
Study confirms older father ups Schizophrenia risk
Schizophrenia and Paternal Age


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