You Don’t Have to be a Centenarian to Pass Longevity
to Your Children
Children of long-lived parents less likely to get
cancer and other diseases associated with aging
May 28, 2013 - If you are a mother and older than
91, or a father and older than 87, you have probably passed along genes
to your children than will significantly reduce their chance of getting
cancer and other common diseases associated with aging.
An international collaboration has discovered that
people in the U.S. who had a long-lived mother or father were 24% less
likely to get cancer.
The scientists classified long-lived mothers as
those who survived past 91 years old, and compared them to those who
reached average age spans of 77 to 91. Long-lived fathers lived past 87
years old, compared with the average of 65 to 87 years. The scientists
studied 938 new cases of cancer that developed during the 18 year
They found that overall mortality rates dropped by
up to 19 per cent for each decade that at least one of the parents lived
past the age of 65. For those whose mothers lived beyond 85, mortality
rates were 40 per cent lower. The figure was a little lower (14 per
cent) for fathers, possibly because of adverse lifestyle factors such as
smoking, which may have been more common in the fathers.
In the study, published in the
Gerontology: Series A, the scientists analyzed data from a
series of interviews conducted with 9,764 people taking part in the
Health and Retirement Study. The participants were based in America, and
were followed up over 18 years, from 1992 to 2010. They were interviewed
every two years, with questions including the ages of their parents and
when they died. In 2010 the participants were in their seventies.
“Previous studies have shown that the children of
centenarians tend to live longer with less heart disease, but this is
the first robust evidence that the children of longer-lived parents are
also less likely to get cancer,” according to
Henley, from the University of Exeter Medical School.
“We also found that they are less prone to diabetes
or suffering a stroke. These protective effects are passed on from
parents who live beyond 65 – far younger than shown in previous studies,
which have looked at those over the age of 80. Obviously children of
older parents are not immune to contracting cancer or any other diseases
of ageing, but our evidence shows that rates are lower. We also found
that this inherited resistance to age-related diseases gets stronger the
older their parents lived.”
“Interestingly, from a nature versus nurture
perspective, we found no evidence that these health advantages are
passed on from parents-in-law, said Ambarish Dutta, who worked on the
project at the University of Exeter Medical School and is now at the
of Public Health at the Ravenshaw University in India.
“Despite being likely to share the same environment
and lifestyle in their married lives, spouses had no health benefit from
their parents-in-law reaching a ripe old age. If the findings resulted
from cultural or lifestyle factors, you might expect these effects to
extend to husbands and wives in at least some cases, but there was no
In analyzing the data, the team made adjustments
for sex, race, smoking, wealth, education, body mass index, and
childhood socioeconomic status. They also excluded results from those
whose parents died prematurely (mothers who died younger than 61 or
fathers younger than 46).
study was carried out in preparation for a more
detailed analysis of factors explaining why some people seem to age more
slowly than others. Future work will expand to use the UK Biobank, which
analyses a cohort of 500,000 participants.
Other collaborators on the paper were Dr.
Jean-Marie Robine, of the Institut National de la Santé et de la
Recherche Médical, Dr. Kenneth Langa of the University of Michigan,
Professor Robert Wallace of the University of Iowa and Professor David
Melzer, of the University of Exeter Medical School.
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