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Study: Older Fathers More Likely to Have Autistic Children

Studies show older mothers are more likely to have children with Down Syndrome and other abnormalities. Now new research suggests children of older fathers are also at risk for developmental disorders.

Researchers found older men are more likely than younger men to father autistic children. Autism is a series of disorders that can range from mild to severe. It affects thinking, feeling, language, and the ability to relate to others.

Professor Margaret Pericak-Vance of Duke University says, "This is the first study that links advanced paternal age with an increase in autism risk."

The overall risk for autism is said to be small . But the researchers found that as men age, their chances of fathering autistic children increase. For men in their 50s, their chance of fathering an autistic child is nine times the risk of men in their teens and 20s.

Different studies link older fathers with a child's increased risk of schizophrenia and other genetic conditions. Dr. Harry Ostrer of New York University feels, "The take-home message to me from this study is that it's best not to wait to have children. Children of older fathers may be at risk for a whole host of different conditions."

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports a surge in the number of children diagnosed Autism Spectrum Disorder. This could be due to changes in how autism is diagnosed, or it could be more children are being born with the disorder.

What is known is that as men age, their ability to repair faulty DNA in sperm cells decreases.

Whatever the answer, the new study suggests that the age of the father is an important factor in determining autism and other genetic disorders.