The Autism Debate Goes On

A new study suggests older mothers are more likely to have a child with autism. Previous research found that risk of autism increased with the age of the father. According to this new study, published in the February issue of the journal Autism Research, every five-year increase in a mother’s age raised her risk of having a child with autism by 18 percent.

Also in the news within the past few weeks was a retraction of a controversial autism research study published in 1998. The British medical journal The Lancet retracted the study, which suggested a link between the MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccine and autism, for making claims that “have been proved to be false,” after the study’s lead investigator was cited by a U.K. regulatory panel for “acting dishonestly and irresponsibly.” It’s also important to note that many subsequent attempts to duplicate the study’s findings have been unsuccessful.

To put this all in perspective, here’s more background on autism, and on the MMR vaccine and other things some believe to be associated with autism:

Autism spectrum disorder affects the brain’s development of social and communication skills. Somewhere along the way, something disrupts the normal structural or chemical growth of the brain. The symptoms range from mild (for example, slight social and communication impairment) to more severe (which may also include substantial delays in language development, and unusual behaviors and interests).

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