Maternal and paternal genetics, immune function, and socioeconomic factors influence atopic dermatitis (AD) risk in offspring, and whereas studies looking at how parents impact their children’s risk for the common skin disease tend to demonstrate a greater maternal influence, more studies are needed to examine how paternal genetics, lifestyle, and more might increase or decrease AD risk in their children, according to a review published in 2017 in Dermatitis.1
“There appears to be a larger maternal factor than paternal in many of the studies reviewed. For example, maternal smoking doubles the risk of AD development, but apparently not paternal. To a certain extent, fathers are ‘off the hook,’ but it is probably not that simple. Practical aspects such as recall bias in filling out the surveys could mean that paternal risk factors were overlooked, and some studies found evidence that if either parent has AD, the risk is increased in offspring,” says study author Peter A. Lio, MD, clinical assistant professor of Dermatology and Pediatrics, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, Chicago. Illinois.
No slam dunk
There is a body of research that suggests fathers and mothers with histories of AD have similar chances of passing the disease to their offspring. One example: A US study of more than 1000 mothers’ infants found that of children who developed AD in the first 6 months of life, 26% had fathers with a history of AD versus 32% with mothers who had a history of the disease—a difference that was not statistically signficant.2
Other researchers studying 285 families, each with 1 parent who had AD, found 58% of children developed AD if they had a father who had the disease versus 57% of children who developed it who had mothers with a history of AD.3 Authors of still another study of 4089 children followed from birth to 4 years found one-third of children were diagnosed with AD. Nearly 38% of those had at least 1 parent—with equal likelihood of it being a mother or father—who had a history of AD.4
When they reviewed epigenetic research, Lio and colleagues found AD’s heritability involves multiple alleles on separate chromosomes. Mothers’ and fathers’ genetic makeups likely both exert influence on offspring’s development of AD, but studies to date support a mother’s genes have a stronger impact, the review authors report.1
Socioeconomics, occupation, maternal/paternal lifestyle
Lio says there were 2 things that surprised him when doing research for the review.
“The first was that having a higher socioeconomic status is associated with a higher AD risk. This is interesting because many conditions seem to affect lower socioeconomic groups more, presumably for a number of health and lifestyle-related reasons,” Lio says. “The second was that higher education level in mothers was associated with a higher risk of AD. I have long felt that our AD patients seemed to be a particularly intelligent group, and this is a fascinating association.”
1. Vaughn AR, Sivamani RK, Lio PA, Shi VY. Paternal vs maternal factors in childhood atopic dermatitis. Dermatitis. 2017;28(4):241-245. Available at: https://insights.ovid.com/pubmed?pmid=28614111. Accessed August 6, 2019.
2. Moore MM, Rifas-Shiman SL, Rich-Edwards JW, et al. Perinatal predictors of atopic dermatitis occurring in the first six months of life. Pediatrics. 2004;113(3 pt 1):468-474.
3. Uehara M, Sugiura H, Omoto M. Paternal and maternal atopic dermatitis have the same influence on development of the disease in children. Acta Derm Venereol. 1999;79(3):235.
4. Bõhme M, Wickman M, Lennart Nordvall S, Svartengren M, Wahlgren CF. Family history and risk of atopic dermatitis in children up to 4 years. Clin Exp Allergy. 2003;33(9):1226-1231.
5. Wang IJ, Wen HJ, Chiang TL, Lin SJ, Chen PC, Guo YL. Maternal employment and atopic dermatitis in children: a prospective cohort study. Br J Dermatol. 2013;168(4):794-801.
6. Wada K, Konishi K, Tamura T, Shiraki M, Iwasa S, Nagata C. Alcohol intake during pregnancy and offspring’s atopic eczema risk. Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2016;40(5):1037-1043.