London: The offspring of parents who live to a ripe old age are more likely to live longer themselves, and are less prone to cancer and other common diseases associated with ageing, scientists, including an Indian-origin researcher, have found.
Experts at the University of Exeter Medical School in UK led an international collaboration which discovered that people who had a long-lived mother or father were 24 percent less likely to get cancer.
The scientists compared the children of long-lived parents to children whose parents survived to average ages for their generation.
The scientists classified long-lived mothers as those who survived past 91 years old, and compared them to those who reached average age spans of 77 to 91.
Long-lived fathers lived past 87 years old, compared with the average of 65 to 87 years. The scientists studied 938 new cases of cancer that developed during the 18 year follow-up period.
They found that overall mortality rates dropped by up to 19 percent 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 percent lower. The figure was a little lower (14 percent) for fathers.
In the study, published in the Journals of Gerontology: Series A, the scientists’ analysed data from a series of interviews conducted with 9,764 people taking part in the Health and Retirement Study.
The participants were based in America, and were followed up over 18 years, from 1992 to 2010. They were interviewed every two years, with questions including the ages of their parents and when they died. In 2010 the participants were in their seventies.
"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," Professor William Henley, from the University of Exeter Medical School, said.
"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," Henley said.
"Interestingly from a nature versus nurture perspective, we found no evidence that these health advantages are passed on from parents-in-law," said Ambarish Dutta, who worked 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.