-- Robert Preidt
WEDNESDAY, July 3 (HealthDay News) -- Children born to first
cousins or older mothers have a twofold higher risk of birth
defects such as Down syndrome and heart and lung problems, but the
absolute risk to any one child remains low, researchers say.
The findings from the study of more than 11,000 babies born in
Bradford, England, between 2007 and 2011 are to be published online
July 4 in
The absolute risk of a birth defect is small, rising from 3
percent in children born to unrelated parents to 6 percent for
children born to cousins, the authors said. For mothers aged 35 or
older, the risk rises to 4 percent, compared to 2 percent for women
This means that "only a small minority of babies born to couples
who are blood relatives or older mothers will develop a [birth
defect]," lead author Eamonn Sheridan, of the University of Leeds,
said in a journal news release.
Bradford has a large Pakistani community. About 37 percent of
Pakistani marriages in the study were between first cousins,
compared with less than 1 percent of British marriages. The large
number of marriages between first cousins accounted for 31 percent
of birth defects for Pakistani babies.
The rate of birth defects among the babies born in Bradford was
nearly double the U.K. rate, about 306 versus 166 per 10,000 live
births. Low socioeconomic status did not explain the higher rate of
birth defects among children born to first cousins, nor did
mothers' smoking, drinking or obesity.
A high level of education among mothers halved the risk of
having a baby with a birth defect, regardless of race/ethnicity,
the researchers said.
Sheridan's team noted that marriage between blood relatives is
common in many parts of the world. These communities need to be
provided with clear information and counseling about the increased
risk of birth defects among children born to blood relatives.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more
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