Dad's Age Could Affect Daughter's Cancer Risk

Breast cancer and ovarian cancer risk of daughters affected by age of father at birth

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Parents may consider their age when having kids in terms of their own health and vitality as the children grow. But could parental age actually affect the future health of the children, too?

A new study looked at fathers' age at the time of their daughters' birth and the daughters' cancer risk later in life.

This study found that daughters whose fathers were either younger than 20 or older than 30 had a higher risk for certain kinds of hormone-related cancers.

"Discuss cancer screenings with your doctor."

According to the authors of this study, which was led by Yani Lu, PhD, of the City of Hope cancer center in Duarte, California, as the childbearing age has increased in the Western world, immediate health effects on children have been studied, but few long-term explorations have taken place.

Dr. Lu and team aimed to explore the relationship between parental age at children's birth and the rate of those children later developing cancer as an adult. The researchers focused on hormone-related cancers, including breast cancer, ovarian cancer and endometrial cancer.

These researchers used data from the California Teachers Study cohort, which involved 133,479 female teachers and school administrators during the years 1995 and 2010.

During this time, 5,349 cases of breast cancer, 515 cases of ovarian cancer and 1,110 cases of endometrial cancer were diagnosed in the participants.

The researchers found no clear association between the age of a woman's mother at her time of birth and her later risk for these cancers. However, they did find an association when it came to the father's age.

When compared to women who were born to a father between the age of 25 and 29 years old, women who were born to a father under the age of 20 had a 35 percent greater risk for breast cancer. These women also had twice the risk for ovarian cancer.

Women whose father was between the ages of 30 and 34 had a 25 percent higher risk of endometrial cancer than women who were born to a father between ages 25 and 29.

"These findings indicate that parental age at birth, especially paternal age at birth, may affect the adult-onset cancer risk of daughters, especially breast cancer," wrote Dr. Lu and team.

It is important to remember that this study found a relationship between parental age and later adult-onset cancer, but not that one necessarily caused the other. More research is needed to confirm these findings in other populations and further explore the topic of parental age at birth and a child's long-term health.

According to Daniel B. Kopans, MD, Professor of Radiology at Harvard Medical School and Senior Radiologist in the Breast Imaging Division at Massachusetts General Hospital, "The study should be viewed with a healthy skepticism. There is no plausible biological reason for this association. It is almost exactly that — an interesting association — but there is no reason to suspect a cause and effect."

This study was presented April 7 at the American Association for Cancer Research Annual Meeting in San Diego. Studies presented at conferences are considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

Review Date: 
April 9, 2014
Last Updated:
April 10, 2014