Longevity is inherited to some degree, with the evidence suggesting that the contribution of your genes grows in importance in old age. Prior to that point, your lifestyle choices are far more significant to long-term health. Nonetheless, some genetic lineages are superior to others when it comes to tilting the odds in favor of a longer life. One of the objectives for longevity science is to make these differences irrelevant, swamping them in the benefits to health and longevity created by therapies capable of rejuvenation. For example, why would anyone care about inherited cancer risk if clinics could reliably cure or prevent all cancer? No-one cares about the genetic risks associated with influenza or smallpox, and that is exactly because these are controlled, cured conditions.
[Researchers] analysed data from a series of interviews conducted with 9,764 people taking part in the Health and Retirement Study. The participants were based in America, and were followed up over 18 years, from 1992 to 2010. [The scientists] discovered that people who had a long-lived mother or father were 24% less likely to get cancer.
The scientists compared the children of long-lived parents to children whose parents survived to average ages for their generation. The scientists classified long-lived mothers as those who survived past 91 years old, and compared them to those who reached average age spans of 77 to 91. Long-lived fathers lived past 87 years old, compared with the average of 65 to 87 years. The scientists studied 938 new cases of cancer that developed during the 18 year follow-up period.
They found that overall mortality rates dropped by up to 19 per cent for each decade that at least one of the parents lived past the age of 65. For those whose mothers lived beyond 85, mortality rates were 40 per cent lower. The figure was a little lower (14 per cent) for fathers, possibly because of adverse lifestyle factors such as smoking, which may have been more common in the fathers.
"Previous studies have shown that the children of centenarians tend to live longer with less heart disease, but this is the first robust evidence that the children of longer-lived parents are also less likely to get cancer. We also found that they are less prone to diabetes or suffering a stroke. These protective effects are passed on from parents who live beyond 65 - far younger than shown in previous studies, which have looked at those over the age of 80. Obviously children of older parents are not immune to contracting cancer or any other diseases of ageing, but our evidence shows that rates are lower. We also found that this inherited resistance to age-related diseases gets stronger the older their parents lived."
"Interestingly from a nature versus nurture perspective, we found no evidence that these health advantages are passed on from parents-in-law. Despite being likely to share the same environment and lifestyle in their married lives, spouses had no health benefit from their parents-in-law reaching a ripe old age. If the findings resulted from cultural or lifestyle factors, you might expect these effects to extend to husbands and wives in at least some cases, but there was no impact whatsoever."