Parents' Age and Cancer Risks

Cancer risks lower in people whose parents live longer than average

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) If you’re the child of someone who lived to be 100 or more, you’re likely to live longer. It’s in the genes. Does a parent’s age affect cancer risks? New research points to "yes."

Individuals whose mother or father were considered long-lived had a 24 percent decreased risk of developing cancer.

Those are the findings of a newly published international study.

"Stay active to live longer."

For this research, David Melzer, MBBCH, PhD, of the University of Exeter Medical School in the UK, collaborated with colleagues at Exeter as well as scientists at the National Institute for Health and Medical Research in France, the University of Michigan and the University of Iowa.

The study involved interviewing 9,764 middle-aged individuals between the ages of 51 and 61, about 50 percent of whom had living parents.

Initial interviews took place in 1992, and the participants were followed for 18 years and interviewed every two years until 2010.

Mothers who lived to be over the age of 91 were considered long-lived, as were fathers who lived beyond 87.

People whose mother or father lived beyond the age of 65 had a 19 percent decline in all-cause mortality (dying from any cause). And for every decade beyond 65, the mortality rate was lowered by another 14 percent.

Having one or two long-lived parents lowered an individual’s cancer risks by 24 percent, compared to two intermediate-lived mothers (77 to 91 year) or fathers (65 to 87 years).

The same trends were seen for other diseases. Children of longer lived parents had an 11 percent decreased risk of diabetes, a 12 percent decreased risk of heart disease and a 14 percent decreased risk of stroke.

These benefits were seen even after the researchers adjusted for sex, race, smoking, wealth, education, body mass index and childhood socioeconomic status.

“The offspring of longer lived parents also had higher overall survival, better cardiovascular health, and less diabetes at baseline, and they continued to experience the same health advantages as they aged,” the authors wrote.

“We have known for some time now that individuals with parents who live longer than average tend to live longer themselves,” Steven K. Libutti, MD, FACS, vice chairman of surgery and director of the Montefiore Einstein Center for Cancer Care, told dailyRx News. “This study, for the first time, tells us that parental age also confers cancer protective benefits, which is excellent and important news.”

The study was published in the May issue of the Journals of Gerontology: Series A. 

The research was supported by the National Institute for Health Research Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care in the South West Peninsula (NIHR PenCLAHRC). No conflicts of interest were declared.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
May 28, 2013
Last Updated:
August 8, 2013