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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Parental age and childhood cancer risk: A Danish population-based registry study



Though the association between parental age at child’s birth and the risk of childhood cancer has been previously investigated, the evidence to date is inconclusive and scarce for rarer cancer types.


Cancer cases (N=5,856) were selected from all children born from 1968–2014 and diagnosed from 1968–2015 in Denmark at less than 16 years of age listed in the nationwide Danish Cancer Registry. Cases were individually matched to controls (1:100) on sex and year of birth with a total of 585,594 controls randomly sampled from all live births in Denmark from the Danish Central Population Registry. Parental age at child’s birth was extracted from the Central Population Registry. Conditional logistic regression models were used to estimate odds ratios for the association between parental age at child’s birth and childhood cancer risk. Parental age was modeled as both categorical (referent group, parents aged 25–29) and continuous per 5-year increase in age.


Offspring of older mothers were at an increased risk of acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) [OR=1.10, 95% CI: (1.02, 1.19) per 5-year increase in age]. Older maternal age (40+) increased the risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) [OR=1.96, 95%CI: (1.12, 3.43)]. The risk of Wilms’ tumor also appeared elevated with older paternal age [OR=1.11, 95% CI: (0.97, 1.28) per 5-year increment in age].


Older parental age was a risk factor for various childhood cancers in Danish children. Further investigation of the biological and social factors that may be contributing to these associations is warranted.

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