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Maternal age and autism


A new study links higher maternal age to an increased risk of autism. Researchers analyzed past studies to investigate possible association between maternal age and autism. While loads of research has been done to find potential genetic causes of autism, this new analysis seems to suggest that non-genetic and environmental factors may also play a key role in the risk factor for having children with autism.

“The study makes us confident there is an increased risk for autism associated with older maternal age, even though we do not know what the mechanism is. It has been observed in high quality studies from different countries, including the US. All studies controlled for paternal age which is an independent risk factor for autism. This finding adds to the understanding that older age of the parents could have consequences to the health of their children,” said Sven Sandin, of the Karolinska Institutet, Sweden and King’s College London.

Sandin’s team compared the risk of autism in different groups of maternal age. They found that children of mothers aged 35 or older had a 30% increased risk for autism. Moms under 20 had the lowest risk of developing autism in their children. The relationship of older mom to autistic child was stronger with male offspring than female.

While they don’t understand the mechanism, researchers identified and discussed several potential underlying causes such as increased gene alteration during the aging process and the effects of exposure to environmental toxins over time.

Source: MedicalNewsToday, Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry

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