Rising Down's Syndrome Trend as Maternal Age Increases

However, study suggests that improved screening has offset the rise

TUESDAY, Oct. 27 (HealthDay News) -- Although there has been an increase in the incidence of Down's syndrome in the United Kingdom since 1989, improved screening has offset the rise and the number of Down's syndrome births has slightly declined, according to a study published Oct. 26 in BMJ.

Joan K. Morris, Ph.D., and Eva Alberman, M.D., of the Royal London School of Medicine and Dentistry, and colleagues analyzed data from the National Down Syndrome Cytogenetic Register on the 26,488 antenatal and postnatal diagnoses of Down's syndrome since 1989 in England and Wales.

The number of births in 2007/2008 was similar to that in 1989/1990, but in the same period there was a 71 percent rise in the number of Down's syndrome diagnoses, from 1,075 to 1,843, the researchers found. As a consequence of better screening and more subsequent terminations, however, the number of Down's syndrome live births fell by 1 percent, and the trend of starting families at an older age would have seen a 48 percent rise in Down's syndrome live births in the absence of screening, the investigators note.

"Dramatic changes in demography have been offset by improved medical technology and have resulted in no substantial changes in the birth prevalence of this quite disabling condition," the authors write.

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