Publications

Longer Lived Parents: Protective Associations With Cancer Incidence and Overall Mortality

BACKGROUND: Children of centenarians have lower cardiovascular disease prevalence and live longer. We aimed to estimate associations between the full range of parental attained ages and health status in a middle-aged U.S. representative sample. METHODS: Using Health and Retirement Study data, models estimated disease incidence and mortality hazards for respondents aged 51-61 years at baseline, followed up for 18 years. 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. RESULTS: With increasing mother's or father's survival (>65 years), all-cause mortality declined 19% (hazard ratio HR] = 0.81, 95% CI: 0.76-0.86, p < .001) and 14% per decade (HR = 0.87, 95% CI: 0.81-0.92, p < .001). Estimates changed only modestly when fully adjusted. Parent-in-law survival was not associated with mortality (n = 1,809, HR = 1.00, 95% CI: 0.90-1.12, p = .98). 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. CONCLUSIONS: 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.