Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Male Biological Clock

Clock We hear so much about the female "biological clock" in discussions that often mix medical concerns with value-laden assumptions about women and their role in society.  However, there is evidence that men's advancing age can have an effect on their offspring.

Roni Rabin writes in today's New York Times:

When it comes to fertility and the prospect of having normal babies, it has always been assumed that men have no biological clock — that unlike women, they can have it all, at any age.

But mounting evidence is raising questions about that assumption, suggesting that as men get older, they face an increased risk of fathering children with abnormalities. Several recent studies are starting to persuade many doctors that men should not be too cavalier about postponing marriage and children.

Until now, the problems known to occur more often with advanced paternal age were so rare they received scant public attention. The newer studies were alarming because they found higher rates of more common conditions — including autism and schizophrenia — in offspring born to men in their middle and late 40s. A number of studies also suggest that male fertility may diminish with age.

. . . It’s a touchy subject. “Advanced maternal age” is formally defined: women who are 35 or older when they deliver their baby may have “A.M.A.” stamped on their medical files to call attention to the higher risks they face. But the concept of “advanced paternal age” is murky. Many experts are skeptical about the latest findings, and doctors appear to be in no rush to set age guidelines or safety perimeters for would-be fathers, content instead to issue vague sooner-rather-than-later warnings.

. . . Some advocates, however, welcome the attention being paid to the issue of male fertility, saying it is long overdue and adding that it could level the playing field between men and women in the premarital dating game. Male_symbol

“The message to men is: ‘Wake up and smell the java,’ ” said Pamela Madsen, executive director of the American Fertility Association, a national education and advocacy group. “ ‘It’s not just about women anymore, it’s about you too.’ ”

“It takes two to make a baby,” she said, “and men who one day want to become fathers need to wake up, read what’s out there and take responsibility.

“I don’t see why everyone is so surprised,” Ms. Madsen added. “Everyone ages. Why would sperm cells be the only cells not to age as men get older?”

Read Male Biological Clock: It Seems the Fertility Clock Ticks for Men, Too (New York Times 2/27/07).


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In terms of a statistically higher risk of schizophrenia, autism, diabete 1, MS, some cancers, Alzheimer's all without family history the advanced paternal age is 35. Risk of genetic defects in sperm DNA that are not in the man's blood cells start showing up at ages 32-33 the same as in ovum. Ethylin Jabs, M.D. John's Hopkins University.

Posted by: Leslie Feldman | Feb 28, 2007 3:52:42 PM


The age when the risk of genetic defects start showing up is at ages 33-35 not 32-33. I am very sorry for the error I made when I tried to remember what Dr. Jabs said.


Posted by: anniepema | Mar 2, 2007 4:56:22 PM

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