Attributable Cases of Cancer and Neurocognitive Disorders in Children in the United States based on Paternal Age

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The mean age of fathers in the United States is on the rise. Several reports have suggested that advanced paternal age increases the risk of cancer, psychiatric disease, chromosomal abnormalities, and failing grades in offspring, yet unlike for maternal age, little is known about the quantitative impact of older fathers on these diseases. We thus sought to model the increase in offspring disease between 1972 and 2015 attributable to demographic trends of increasing paternal age within the United States.


We evaluated all births spanning from 1972 to 2015 using weighted data provided by the Centers for Disease Control’s National Vital Statistics System. Births were subsequently categorized into ranges of paternal age. A literature review revealed published offspring disease incidence rates that were utilized to calculate the number of births affected for each respective paternal age category and disease type. All rates were adjusted for maternal age. The number of births affected by each disease was calculated for each year based on the incidence rate of disease for a given paternal age group. Cases per 4 millions annual births are listed.


Between 1972 and 2015, the mean paternal age rose from 27.4 years to 30.9 years. This resulted in a shift in the percentage of fathers with age greater than 40 years, 4.1% to 8.5%. After adjusting for maternal age, the increase in paternal age could lead to an estimated 54,031 additional cases of prostate cancer in their offspring compared to 1972. Achondroplasia due to increasing paternal age was also estimated to increase from 610 cases in 1972 to 923 cases in 2015, an increase of 51%. Similarly, an estimated 1,949 additional cases of autism and 34,045 additional cases of bipolar disease are expected in births occurring in 2015 compared to 1972, increases of 21.6% and 39.5%, respectively. The percentage of children born in 2015 expected to suffer from substance abuse, failing grades, and low education attainment also increased by 14.2%, 13.4% and 2.8%, respectively, compared to 1972 due to effects associated with increasing paternal age.


As demographic patterns shift in the US and the age of paternity increases, an increasing number of paternal age diseases may affect offspring. A higher percentage of births are expected to suffer from childhood and adult cancers, chromosomal abnormalities, psychiatric comorbidities, and poor educational performance based on the increase in paternal age over the past forty years. The public health impact of increasing paternal age requires further investigation.

Funding: None.