Thursday, March 01, 2007

Now we can blame autism on old sperm!

(graphic: New York Times)

From the New York Times: "When it comes to fertility and the prospect of having normal babies, it has always been assumed that men have no biological clock — that unlike women, they can have it all, at any age.

But mounting evidence is raising questions about that assumption, suggesting that as men get older, they face an increased risk of fathering children with abnormalities. Several recent studies are starting to persuade many doctors that men should not be too cavalier about postponing marriage and children.

Until now, the problems known to occur more often with advanced paternal age were so rare they received scant public attention. The newer studies were alarming because they found higher rates of more common conditions — including autism and schizophrenia — in offspring born to men in their middle and late 40s.

So why don't we see all these older men (Strom Thurmond, Donald Trump, etc.) with their autistic-schizophrenic kids running around? Plus, isn't it sad that now autism and schizophrenia are now "common"?

Definitely with age comes more DNA breaks due to toxins and oxidative stress, but to me, this is yet one more theory "blaming" the parents for autism while no one wants to look at mercury or pesticides or other environmental/pharma factors that may also be responsible for the alarming increase in all sorts of neurological disorders. Old guys have been having kids with younger women for a loooooong time (wasn't May-December from Shakespeare?) and autism and schizophrenia wasn't "common" then.

14 comments:

Autism Reality NB said...

The age of the fathers seems to this middle aged father of an autistic 11 year old boy to be an interesting area for scientific exploration as a possible contributing factor in the development of autism.

Are you opposed to the use of science to explore causes of autism? Should we stick to literature, Shakesperean or otherwise, as the primary source of understanding autism, its possible causes and interventions?

Green Fertility Marie said...

Thank you fro your comment.

What would be interesting to look at then is to see if there's a corresponding epidemic-type increase in middle-aged men becoming fathers, then; my point is that older fathers have been siring offspring since time immemorial but the rates of autism has exploded.

May I ask, were you middle aged 12 years ago when your son was conceived?

Thanks for reading the blog!

Carla said...

"the rates of autism has exploded"

Is it possible that the *diagnoses* of autism has exploded and not necessarily rates?

I have my diminished and spotty fertility at such a young age and now my DP may be too “old” to have a health child with me if I do manage to get pregnant. What’s next? ;)

Green Fertility Marie said...

I hear a lot about "better diagnosing." But I find it hard to believe people just never noticed the hand fluttering, head banging, non verbal children before! I can't remember a single autistic kid from my childhood...

Miranda said...

I don't think it's blaming to consider that older sperm may be a factor. Sure older men have sired kids forever, but possibly not as often -- both men and women are 'waiting' longer these days. That said, you know I suspect that environment plays a large role in rising disease rates. Maybe...the *combination* of older sperm and a man's years of exposure to toxics in the environment together conspire to cause autism/schizophrenia.

Anonymous said...

After all the sexist things guys have said to me about how they can have children whenever they want (but not a woman!), I kinda like this study! Joking and half joking aside, the environmental factors cannot be dismissed.

Ali

Green Fertility Marie said...

Miranda,

I kind of feel like it's blaming, i.e., blaming the sperm, blaming the deciding to wait (or whatever) and NOT blaming the toxins, etc., that I suspect are the real culprits!

concerned heart said...

It is not blaming anybody. It has been known for many years that children of fathers 35 and over are at increasing risk of genetic disorders.

http://ebdblog.com/paternalage/

concerned heart said...

By the way, the last stats I read were that births to fathers 35-49 had increased 40% from 1980 to 2002 and births to fathers over 50 had increased quite a bit too.

The fact that the definition of autism has changed in the DSM only confuses the issue of paternal age and risk of autism and schizophrenia, and mental retardation etc.

Anonymous said...

My partner is 57 and I'm 24. I planned to have a child with him before I'm 30. He has three grown children, my age, all without any health problems. But the roll of the genetic dice may not be in my favor... this time.

Green Fertility Marie said...

Rupert Murdoch is 76 and has two healthy kids under 5! Why aren't there TONS of old dads with autistic kids?

Lynda said...

I'm not sure what you mean by a looong time when you say older men have been having children. Because it wasn't very long ago that people weren't actually living that long-We've increased lifespan by 30 years since the 1920s. (Lifespan is always up and down based on many factors) Years ago men & women married in their 20s. I haven't seen any real statistics taken long ago showing the average ages parents continued to have children and what the kids health conditions were after they were born. Taking detailed statistics like this are also fairly recent. But if you do have facts like this I would be interested in seeing them-I've been looking for it myself.

Also when you say you don't remember autistic children running around, it makes me think you should definitely look into how we used to institutionalize not only autistic children but deaf, blind, mentally challenged, physically disabled etc. Also until recently it was hard to even get education for these children unless you were wealthy and could get it privately. Now we have government institutions to help parents take care of them and specialized schools.

They are seeing a lot of older fathers with autistic children-I don't think that suggests everyone or even the majority-they just found a correlation. There are correlations with everything. There are very few things you will find that affect "TONS" of people.

I agree we have to look at environmental factors too but I'm happy we're also looking into males having an age limit just like women!

Anonymous said...

If you really want to learn about what causes autism, view the video on YouTube at:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=85tgwh3HpsM

Green Fertility Marie said...

Thanks--I have watched this many times before...