What does a woman's age have to do with the chance of her child developing autism? It turns out quite a bit, and the same holds true for men.

In a study of 7.5 million births in California between 1989 and 2002, researchers at the California health department found that a child's risk of developing autism increased along with the age of his or her parents. Their findings were recently reported in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

The study found that for each 10-year increase in a mother's age between the ages of 20 and 40, the risk of her child developing autism climbed by 38 percent, even taking into account the father's age and other factors, such as race and education level. Men are not exempt for the increased risk either. Each 10-year increase in a father's age between the ages of 20 and 60 was associated with a 22 percent increase in the risk.

Autism is a broad term for a spectrum of disorders that affect the brain and hinder a child's ability to communicate and interact socially. The exact causes and risk factors of autism are not fully understood. The researchers of the California study say the age of the parents may play a role in a child's development of autism, but they contend that it is probably a relatively minor one.

via Reuters Health

Photo: Tim Kiser

Parents' age linked to child's autism risk
New study finds children born to older parents may have an increased risk of autism.