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Is maternal transmission of coronary heart disease risk stronger than paternal transmission?
  1. S Kinra1,
  2. G Davey Smith1,
  3. M Okasha1,
  4. P McCarron2,
  5. J McEwen3
  1. 1Department of Social Medicine, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK
  2. 2Department of Epidemiology & Public Health, N Ireland Cancer Registry, The Queen’s University of Belfast, Belfast, UK
  3. 3Department of Public Health, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, UK
  1. Correspondence to:
    Dr Sanjay Kinra, Canynge Hall, Whiteladies Road, Bristol BS8 2PR, UK;


Objective: To test whether intergenerational transmission of coronary heart disease (CHD) to offspring is greater from the mother than from the father, the association between parental history of CHD and coronary mortality in male offspring was examined.

Design: Prospective cohort study with 43 years of follow up.

Setting: University of Glasgow.

Participants: Male students (n = 8402) aged 16–30 years when examined in 1948 to 1968.

Main outcome measure: Fatal CHD.

Main results: Of the 8402 men studied, 615 (7.3%) reported a history of CHD in at least one of the parents: 479 (5.8%) for fathers only, 124 (1.6%) for mothers only, and a further 12 (0.2%) for both their parents. During follow up, 373 (4.4%) men died of CHD. Parental history of disease was associated with fatal CHD and controlling for personal risk factors such as cigarette smoking, body mass index, systolic blood pressure, and father’s social class did not attenuate this relation. The fully adjusted hazard ratios were 1.53 (95% confidence interval (CI) 1.08 to 2.18), 1.19 (95% CI 0.61 to 2.32), and 8.65 (95% CI 2.65 to 28.31) for father only, mother only, and both parents with CHD, respectively, compared with men whose parents did not have CHD. There was some evidence for interaction between parental histories (p = 0.049), with particularly high risk if both parents reported a history of CHD.

Conclusions: This study found no differential transmission of CHD. Paternal history of CHD was at least as important as maternal history. Data from other comparable cohorts provide no consistent evidence of differential transmission. Intergenerational transmission of CHD does not appear to have differential effects between mothers and fathers.

  • coronary heart disease
  • parental history
  • cohort study
  • BMI, body mass index
  • CI, confidence interval
  • CHD, coronary heart disease
  • ICD, International classification of diseases
  • NHSCR, National Health Service Register

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