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New study shows autism risk higher with older men

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PHOENIX (KSAZ) -

For years, we've heard that women shouldn't wait too long to have children because, but now it seems that men approaching their forties should be watching the clock as well.

Some scientists say a father's age could account for 20 to 30 percent of autism cases. It may also be linked to the risk of developing schizophrenia.

A study published in the journal called, "nature" looked at the genetic codes of 78 families with no history of mental illness who gave birth to a child with autism.

"And when they looked at these families they saw that there was an increased number of mutations most of these mutations came from the father and when they really looked at the statistics of it as the fathers age the number of mutations increased and basically going from a father," said Dr.. Al Borhan a urologist.

Dr. Al Borhan, of affiliated urology in Phoenix says this study, out of Iceland and conducted by decode genetics, is the first to quantify the effects of a father's age on autism rates.

"You want to look at these mutations as building blocks, and some of them could be harmless, but a bunch of them together could lead to autism or schizophrenia," said Dr.. Borhan.

The study showed men from 20-40 gained 2 new genetic mutations a year. A 20 year-old man typically has 25 mutations while a 40 year-old man has 65 mutations. Women have an average of 15 mutations, regardless of their age.

"The overall risk is still two percent for a man in their forties, so it's not a big risk. But if you're trying to have organized family planning, but there is a palpable appreciable risk, and if you don't know about this when the data is out there you're kind of doing yourself a disservice," he said.

Unfortunately, there is not a test available to check for the mutations that could cause autism.

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