Parents living longer mean less likely chance of cancer and other related aging diseases for their offspring
Children of centenarians have lower cardiovascular disease prevalence and live longer. Experts at the University of Exeter Medical School in collaboration with experts from the National Institute for Health and Medical Research in France (Institut national de la santé et de la recherche médicale), the University of Michigan and the University of Iowa, aimed to estimate associations between the full range of parental attained ages and health status in a middle-aged U.S. representative sample, according to the study’s abstract.
For the study the team analyzed the Health and Retirement Study data which estimated disease incidence and mortality hazards for respondents aged 51–61 years at baseline, followed up for 18 years, from 1992 to 2010. A series of interviews were conducted with 9,764 people taking part in the Health and Retirement Study. Interview questions included the age of their parents and date of death, At the end of 2010, the participants were in their seventies.
Full adjustment included sex, race, smoking, wealth, education, body mass index, and childhood socioeconomic status. Mother’s and father’s attained age distributions were used to define short-, intermediate-, and long-lived groups, yielding a ranked parental longevity score (n = 6,055, excluding short–long discordance). Linear models (n = 8,340) tested mother’s or father’s attained ages, adjusted for each other.
Long lived mothers were classified as those whose survival age was that past 91 years in comparison to average life spans of 77 to 91 years. Long lived fathers were classified as those whose survival age was past 87 years in comparison to average life spans of 65 to 87 years. The scientists studied 938 new cases of cancer that developed during the 18 year follow-up period.
The team of experts found that overall mortality rates dropped by up to 19% 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% lower. It is possible that the figure was a little lower for fathers (14%) could be possibly due to adverse lifestyle factors such as smoking, which may have been more common in the fathers.
Offspring with one or two long-lived parents had lower cancer incidence (938 cases, HR per parental longevity score = 0.76, 95% CI: 0.61–0.94, p = .01) versus two intermediate parents. Similar HRs for diabetes (HR = 0.89, 95% CI: 0.84–0.96, p = .001), heart disease (HR = 0.88, 95% CI: 0.82–0.93, p < .001), and stroke (HR = 0.86, 95% CI: 0.78–0.95, p = .002) were significant, but there was no trend for arthritis.
The study could not look at the various sub groups of cancer, as numbers did not allow accurate estimates. This 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 use the UK Biobank, which analyses a cohort of 500,000 participants.
In their conclusion the team writes “The results provide the first robust evidence that increasing parental attained age is associated with lower cancer incidence in offspring. Health advantages of having centenarian parents extend to a wider range of parental longevity and may provide a quantitative trait of slower aging.”
Dr. William Henley, Professor of Medical Statistics, University of Exeter Medical School, commented “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. 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.”
Ambarish Dutta, PhD student, who also collaborated on the project at the University of Exeter Medical School and is now at the Asian Institute of Public Health at the Ravenshaw University in India had stated “Interestingly from a nature versus nurture perspective, we found no evidence that these health advantages are passed on from parents-in-law. 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 impact whatsoever.”
Other collaborators on this project included 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.
This study was supported by the National Institute for Health Research Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care in the South West Peninsula (NIHR PenCLAHRC).
This study is in the Journals of Gerontology: Series A.
Citation; primary, secondary