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Parents’ alcohol use is associated with alcohol use of their adolescent offspring, but does this association extend to the adulthood of the offspring? We examined associations of paternal and maternal problem drinking with lifetime problem drinking of their adult offspring prospectively assessed in a population-based Finnish twin-family cohort (FinnTwin16). Problem drinking (Malmö-modified Michigan Alcoholism Screening Test) was self-reported separately by mothers and fathers when their children were 16. The children reported on an extended lifetime version of the same measure during their mid-twenties (21-28 years) and mid-thirties (31-37 years). 1235 sons and 1461 daughters in mid-twenties and 991 sons and 1278 daughters in mid-thirties had complete data. Correlations between fathers’ and their adult children’s problem drinking ranged from .12 to .18. For mothers and their adult children, these correlations ranged from .09 to .14. In multivariate models, adjustment for potential confounders had little effect on the observed associations. In this study, parental problem drinking was modestly associated with lifetime problem drinking of their adult children. This association could be detected even when the children had reached the fourth decade of life.
DNA methylation-based age acceleration (DNAmAA) is associated with cancer, with both cancer tissue and blood showing increased DNAmAA. We aimed to investigate whether DNAmAA is associated with cancer risk within twin pairs discordant for cancer, and whether DNAmAA has the potential to serve as a biomarker for such. The study included 47 monozygotic and 48 same-sex-dizygotic cancer-discordant twin pairs from the Finnish Twin Cohort study with blood samples available between 17 and 31 years after the cancer diagnosis. We studied all cancers (95 pairs), then separately breast cancer (24 pairs) and all sites other than breast cancer (71 pairs). DNAmAA was calculated for seven models: Horvath, Horvath intrinsic epigenetic age acceleration, Hannum, Hannum intrinsic epigenetic age acceleration, Hannum extrinsic epigenetic age acceleration, PhenoAge and GrimAge. Within-pair differences in DNAmAA were analyzed by paired t tests and linear regression. Twin pairs sampled before cancer diagnosis did not differ significantly in DNAmAA. However, the within-pair differences in DNAmAA before cancer diagnosis increased significantly the closer the cancer diagnosis was, and this acceleration extended for years after the diagnosis. Pairs sampled after the diagnosis differed for DNAmAA with the Horvath models capturing cancer diagnosis-associated DNAmAA across all three cancer groupings. The results suggest that DNAmAA in blood is associated with cancer diagnosis. This may be due to epigenetic alterations in relation to cancer, its treatment or associated lifestyle changes. Based on the current study, the biomarker potential of DNAmAA in blood appears to be limited.
Living in the same household exposes family members to shared environments and may be reflected in estimates of shared environment in twin analyses. The age at the separation of cotwins in a twin pair marks the end of such shared exposure, and the age of separation is commonly self-reported in studies. The objective of the study was to summarize the age at separation from residential records and use it to validate with self-reported separation status and age at the third and fourth wave of data collection in the FinnTwin12 cohort. Age at separation was generated from the address information, linking it to the Finnish Population information system since birth. Descriptive statistics by sex and zygosity are presented. The mean age at separation from residential records was 20.36 years old. Women separated earlier than men and dizygotic pairs earlier than monozygotic pairs. We also calculated the sensitivity and specificity with the self-reported separation status at waves 3 and 4, and interrater reliability with the self-reported separation age at wave 4. Age at separation from residential records had a relatively poor agreement with the self-report. This work enables us to use a more precise and objective measure for the shared environment in future twin studies.
Co-twin comparisons address familial confounding by controlling for genetic and environmental influences that twin siblings share. We applied the co-twin comparison design to investigate associations of adolescent factors with alcohol dependence (AD) symptoms. Participants were 1286 individuals (581 complete twin pairs; 42% monozygotic; and 54% female) from the FinnTwin12 study. Predictors included adolescent academic achievement, substance use, externalizing problems, internalizing problems, executive functioning, peer environment, physical health, relationship with parents, alcohol expectancies, life events, and pubertal development. The outcome was lifetime AD clinical criterion count, as measured in young adulthood. We examined associations of each adolescent domain with AD symptoms in individual-level and co-twin comparison analyses. In individual-level analyses, adolescents with higher levels of substance use, teacher-reported externalizing problems at age 12, externalizing problems at age 14, self- and co-twin-reported internalizing problems, peer deviance, and perceived difficulty of life events reported more symptoms of AD in young adulthood (ps < .044). Conversely, individuals with higher academic achievement, social adjustment, self-rated health, and parent–child relationship quality met fewer AD clinical criteria (ps < .024). Associations between adolescent substance use, teacher-reported externalizing problems, co-twin-reported internalizing problems, peer deviance, self-rated health, and AD symptoms were of a similar magnitude in co-twin comparisons. We replicated many well-known adolescent correlates of later alcohol problems, including academic achievement, substance use, externalizing and internalizing problems, self-rated health, and features of the peer environment and parent–child relationship. Furthermore, we demonstrate the utility of co-twin comparisons for understanding pathways to AD. Effect sizes corresponding to the associations between adolescent substance use, teacher-reported externalizing problems, co-twin-reported internalizing problems, peer deviance, and self-rated health were not significantly attenuated (p value threshold = .05) after controlling for genetic and environmental influences that twin siblings share, highlighting these factors as candidates for further research.
We explored the genetic architecture of metabolic risk factors of cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) and their clustering in Chinese boys and girls. Seven metabolic traits (body mass index [BMI], waist circumference [WC], systolic blood pressure [SBP], diastolic blood pressure [DBP], total cholesterol [TC], triglyceride [TG], and uric acid [UA]) were measured in a sample of 1016 twins between 8 and 17 years of age, recruited from the Qingdao Twin Registry. Cholesky, independent pathway, and common pathway models were used to identify the latent genetic structure behind the clustering of these metabolic traits. Genetic architecture of these metabolic traits was largely similar in boys and girls. The highest heritability was found for BMI (a2 = 0.63) in boys and TC (a2 = .69) in girls. Three heritable factors, adiposity (BMI and WC), blood pressure (SBP and DBP), and metabolite factors (TC, TG, and UA), which formed one higher-order latent phenotype, were identified. Latent genetic, common environmental, and unique environmental factors indirectly impacted the three factors through one single latent factor. Our results suggest that there is one latent factor influencing several metabolic traits, which are known risk factors of CVDs in young Chinese twins. Latent genetic, common environmental, and unique environmental factors indirectly imposed on them. These results inform strategies for gene pleiotropic discovery and intervening of CVD risk factors during childhood and adolescence.
Short dietary assessment instruments are often included to large-scale twin studies that focus on multiple health behaviors and disease outcomes. Due to their feasibility and low cost, food frequency questionnaires (FFQs) are usually employed to provide data on dietary intake and diet quality. Diet quality have been linked with eating styles such as meal and snacking frequency. However, little is known about how diet quality is related with various eating styles. We aimed to construct a food-based diet quality score (DQS) from a short FFQ to estimate diet quality and to examine its association with eating styles and nutrient intakes in Finnish twins. Participants were 3592 twin individuals (764 dizygotic [DZ] pairs and 430 monozygotic [MZ] pairs) aged 31–37 from the wave 5 of the FinnTwin16 study. The DQS (range 0–12 points) was constructed from a short FFQ that included dark bread, white bread, fruits and berries, vegetables, fish, whole grain, fast food, fat free or reduced-fat milk or milk products, sugar-sweetened soft drinks or juices, energy drinks, butter and margarine/vegetable oils. Eating styles were self-reported by questionnaire. Nutrient intakes were calculated from food diaries completed in a subsample of 249 twin individuals (45 same-sex DZ pairs and 60 MZ pairs). Data were analyzed using Pearson correlations and multiple regression models adjusted for covariates in individuals and pairwise analyses. Both in individuals and within twin pairs, a higher diet quality was associated with health-conscious eating, having breakfast, fewer evening meals, and a higher frequency and regularity of eating. No associations were found with night eating styles, food as a reward or food restricting/overeating. Among individuals, the DQS was positively correlated with the intakes of protein, fiber and magnesium and negatively with the intakes of total fat, saturated fat and sucrose (rmax = 0.30 for magnesium). The associations with saturated fat, fiber and magnesium remained significant within same-sex DZ twin pairs (rmax = 0.40 for magnesium) and with sucrose within MZ twin pairs (r = -0.42). The DQS is an easy-to-use short tool for ranking individuals and twin pairs according to overall diet quality. The DQS reflects eating styles and intakes of key nutrients related to diet quality.
Cohort studies are essential for conducting large studies of multiple exposures and outcomes in humans. Recently, the ability to combine data from multiple cohorts in, for example, meta-analyses, and the willingness in the genetics community to collaborate to enable replication studies has led to many new insights into the genetic and environmental determinants of human health and behaviors. The contribution of Professor Nicholas Martin to the development of cohort studies, particularly of twin and twin-family studies, over a period of several decades is reviewed. He has contributed to the development and use of both Australian and international resources. The contributions of Australian twin studies to genomewide association projects are multiple, and across multiple domains, from biomarkers, lifestyle and behavior to disorders and disease.
The purpose of this review is to provide a detailed and updated description of the FinnTwin16 (FT16) study and its future directions. The Finnish Twin Cohort comprises three different cohorts: the Older Twin Cohort established in the 1970s and the FinnTwin12 and FT16 initiated in the 1990s. FT16 was initiated in 1991 to identify the genetic and environmental precursors of alcoholism, but later the scope of the project expanded to studying the determinants of various health-related behaviors and diseases in different stages of life. The main areas addressed are alcohol use and its consequences, smoking, physical activity, overall physical health, eating behaviors and eating disorders, weight development, obesity, life satisfaction and personality. To date, five waves of data collection have been completed and the sixth is now planned. Data from the FT16 cohort have contributed to several hundred studies and many substudies, with more detailed phenotyping and collection of omics data completed or underway. FT16 has also contributed to many national and international collaborations.
This review offers an update on research conducted with FinnTwin12 (FT12), the youngest of the three Finnish Twin Cohorts. FT12 was designed as a two-stage study. In the first stage, we conducted multiwave questionnaire research enrolling all eligible twins born in Finland during 1983–1987 along with their biological parents. In stage 2, we intensively studied a subset of these twins with in-school assessments at age 12 and semistructured poly-diagnostic interviews at age 14. At baseline, parents of intensively studied twins were administered the adult version of the interview. Laboratory studies with repeat interviews, neuropsychological tests, and collection of DNA were made of intensively studied twins during follow-up in early adulthood. The basic aim of the FT12 study design was to obtain information on individual, familial and school/neighborhood risks for substance use/abuse prior to the onset of regular tobacco and alcohol use and then track trajectories of use and abuse and their consequences into adulthood. But the longitudinal assessments were not narrowly limited to this basic aim, and with multiwave, multirater assessments from ages 11 to 12, the study has created a richly informative data set for analyses of gene–environment interactions of both candidate genes and genomewide measures with measured risk-relevant environments. Because 25 years have elapsed since the start of the study, we are planning a fifth-wave follow-up assessment.
The Interplay of Genes and Environment across Multiple Studies (IGEMS) is a consortium of 18 twin studies from 5 different countries (Sweden, Denmark, Finland, United States, and Australia) established to explore the nature of gene–environment (GE) interplay in functioning across the adult lifespan. Fifteen of the studies are longitudinal, with follow-up as long as 59 years after baseline. The combined data from over 76,000 participants aged 14–103 at intake (including over 10,000 monozygotic and over 17,000 dizygotic twin pairs) support two primary research emphases: (1) investigation of models of GE interplay of early life adversity, and social factors at micro and macro environmental levels and with diverse outcomes, including mortality, physical functioning and psychological functioning; and (2) improved understanding of risk and protective factors for dementia by incorporating unmeasured and measured genetic factors with a wide range of exposures measured in young adulthood, midlife and later life.
Nordic twin studies have played a critical role in understanding cancer etiology and elucidating the nature of familial effects on site-specific cancers. The NorTwinCan consortium is a collaborative effort that capitalizes on unique research advantages made possible through the Nordic system of registries. It was constructed by linking the population-based twin registries of Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden to their country-specific national cancer and cause-of-death registries. These linkages enable the twins to be followed many decades for cancer incidence and mortality. To date, two major linkages have been conducted: NorTwinCan I in 2011–2012 and NorTwinCan II in 2018. Overall, there are 315,413 eligible twins, 57,236 incident cancer cases and 58 years of follow-up, on average. In the initial phases of our work, NorTwinCan established the world’s most comprehensive twin database for studying cancer, developed novel analytical approaches tailored to address specific research considerations within the context of the Nordic data and leveraged these models and data in research publications that provide the most accurate estimates of heritability and familial risk of cancers reported in the literature to date. Our findings indicate an excess familial risk for nearly all cancers and demonstrate that the incidence of cancer among twins mirrors the rate in the general population. They also revealed that twin concordance for cancer most often manifests across, rather than within, cancer sites, and we are currently focusing on the analysis of these cross-cancer associations.
We aimed to study the eating behavioral traits that associate with body mass index (BMI) among BMI-discordant twin pairs. This cross-sectional study examined self-reported eating behaviors in 134 healthy young adult twin pairs (57 monozygotic [MZ] and 77 same-sex dizygotic [DZ]), of whom 29 MZ and 46 DZ pairs were BMI discordant (BMI difference ≥ 3 kg/m2). In both MZ and DZ BMI-discordant pairs, the heavier co-twins reported being less capable of regulating their food intake optimally than their leaner co-twins, mainly due to ‘frequent overeating’. Furthermore, the heavier co-twins reported augmented ‘disinhibited eating’, ‘binge-eating scores’ and ‘body dissatisfaction’. The twins agreed more frequently that the heavier co-twins (rather than the leaner co-twins) ate more food in general, and more fatty food, in particular. No significant behavioral differences emerged in BMI-concordant twin pairs. Overeating — measured by ‘frequent overeating’, ‘disinhibited eating’ and ‘binge-eating score’ — was the main behavioral trait associated with higher BMI, independent of genotype and shared environment.
The older Finnish Twin Cohort (FTC) was established in 1974. The baseline survey was in 1975, with two follow-up health surveys in 1981 and 1990. The fourth wave of assessments was done in three parts, with a questionnaire study of twins born during 1945–1957 in 2011–2012, while older twins were interviewed and screened for dementia in two time periods, between 1999 and 2007 for twins born before 1938 and between 2013 and 2017 for twins born in 1938–1944. The content of these wave 4 assessments is described and some initial results are described. In addition, we have invited twin-pairs, based on response to the cohortwide surveys, to participate in detailed in-person studies; these are described briefly together with key results. We also review other projects based on the older FTC and provide information on the biobanking of biosamples and related phenotypes.
The Nordic countries have comprehensive, population-based health and medical registries linkable on individually unique personal identity codes, enabling complete long-term follow-up. The aims of this study were to describe the NorTwinCan cohort established in 2010 and assess whether the cancer mortality and incidence rates among Nordic twins are similar to those in the general population. We analyzed approximately 260,000 same-sexed twins in the nationwide twin registers in Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden. Cancer incidence was determined using follow-up through the national cancer registries. We estimated standardized incidence (SIR) and mortality (SMR) ratios with 95% confidence intervals (CI) across country, age, period, follow-up time, sex and zygosity. More than 30,000 malignant neoplasms have occurred among the twins through 2010. Mortality rates among twins were slightly lower than in the general population (SMR 0.96; CI 95% [0.95, 0.97]), but this depends on information about zygosity. Twins have slightly lower cancer incidence rates than the general population, with SIRs of 0.97 (95% CI [0.96, 0.99]) in men and 0.96 (95% CI [0.94, 0.97]) in women. Testicular cancer occurs more often among male twins than singletons (SIR 1.15; 95% CI [1.02, 1.30]), while cancers of the kidney (SIR 0.82; 95% CI [0.76, 0.89]), lung (SIR 0.89; 95% CI [0.85, 0.92]) and colon (SIR 0.90; 95% CI [0.87, 0.94]) occur less often in twins than in the background population. Our findings indicate that the risk of cancer among twins is so similar to the general population that cancer risk factors and estimates of heritability derived from the Nordic twin registers are generalizable to the background populations.
The aim of this study was to examine the effects of genetic and environment influences and sex on injury involvement using two sets of Finnish twin data. The younger participants were 955 twins born between 1983 and 1987, aged 20 to 24 years. The older participants were 12,428 twins born between 1930 and 1957, aged 33 to 60 years. Within-twin correlations in monozygotic and dizygotic twins suggested that genetic effects play no role in injury involvement among young twins, but do have some effect at older ages. The results indicated that environmental factors have greater importance in injury involvement than genetic factors in the younger twin data set (FT12), whereas in a middle-aged (33–60 years) twin data set, genetic effects explained about quarter of the variance in injury involvement. Sex was a strong contributing factor, with males being generally more prone to injuries than females.
The present study investigated the association between sugar and fat intake in childhood in relation to alcohol use in adolescence. We hypothesized that early exposure to diets high in fat and sugar may affect ingestive behaviours later in life, including alcohol use.
Children from the European IDEFICS/I.Family cohort study were examined at ages 5–9 years and followed up at ages 11–16 years. FFQ were completed by parents on behalf of children, and later by adolescents themselves. Complete data were available in 2263 participants. Children’s propensities to consume foods high in fat and sugar were calculated and dichotomized at median values. Adolescents’ use of alcohol was classified as at least weekly v. less frequent use. Log-binomial regression linked sugar and fat consumption in childhood to risk of alcohol use in adolescence, adjusted for relevant covariates.
Five per cent of adolescents reported weekly alcohol consumption. Children with high propensity to consume sugar and fat were at greater risk of later alcohol use, compared with children with low fat and low sugar propensity (relative risk=2·46; 95 % CI 1·47, 4·12), independent of age, sex and survey country. The association was not explained by parental income and education, strict parenting style or child's health-related quality of life and was only partly mediated by sustained consumption of sugar and fat into adolescence.
Frequent consumption of foods high in fat and sugar in childhood predicted regular use of alcohol in adolescence.
Maternal smoking during pregnancy (MSDP) has been linked to offspring's externalizing problems. It has been argued that socio-demographic factors (e.g. maternal age and education), co-occurring environmental risk factors, or pleiotropic genetic effects may account for the association between MSDP and later outcomes. This study provides a comprehensive investigation of the association between MSDP and a single harmonized component of externalizing: aggressive behaviour, measured throughout childhood and adolescence.
Data came from four prospective twin cohorts – Twins Early Development Study, Netherlands Twin Register, Childhood and Adolescent Twin Study of Sweden, and FinnTwin12 study – who collaborate in the EU-ACTION consortium. Data from 30 708 unrelated individuals were analysed. Based on item level data, a harmonized measure of aggression was created at ages 9–10; 12; 14–15 and 16–18.
MSDP predicted aggression in childhood and adolescence. A meta-analysis across the four samples found the independent effect of MSDP to be 0.4% (r = 0.066), this remained consistent when analyses were performed separately by sex. All other perinatal factors combined explained 1.1% of the variance in aggression across all ages and samples (r = 0.112). Paternal smoking and aggressive parenting strategies did not account for the MSDP-aggression association, consistent with the hypothesis of a small direct link between MSDP and aggression.
Perinatal factors, including MSDP, account for a small portion of the variance in aggression in childhood and adolescence. Later experiences may play a greater role in shaping adolescents’ aggressive behaviour.
Whether monozygotic (MZ) and dizygotic (DZ) twins differ from each other in a variety of phenotypes is important for genetic twin modeling and for inferences made from twin studies in general. We analyzed whether there were differences in individual, maternal and paternal education between MZ and DZ twins in a large pooled dataset. Information was gathered on individual education for 218,362 adult twins from 27 twin cohorts (53% females; 39% MZ twins), and on maternal and paternal education for 147,315 and 143,056 twins respectively, from 28 twin cohorts (52% females; 38% MZ twins). Together, we had information on individual or parental education from 42 twin cohorts representing 19 countries. The original education classifications were transformed to education years and analyzed using linear regression models. Overall, MZ males had 0.26 (95% CI [0.21, 0.31]) years and MZ females 0.17 (95% CI [0.12, 0.21]) years longer education than DZ twins. The zygosity difference became smaller in more recent birth cohorts for both males and females. Parental education was somewhat longer for fathers of DZ twins in cohorts born in 1990–1999 (0.16 years, 95% CI [0.08, 0.25]) and 2000 or later (0.11 years, 95% CI [0.00, 0.22]), compared with fathers of MZ twins. The results show that the years of both individual and parental education are largely similar in MZ and DZ twins. We suggest that the socio-economic differences between MZ and DZ twins are so small that inferences based upon genetic modeling of twin data are not affected.
Early maturation, indexed by pubertal development (PD), has been associated with earlier initiation and greater frequency of adolescent substance use, but this relationship may be biased by confounding factors and effects that change across development. Using a population-based Finnish twin sample (N = 3,632 individuals), we conducted twin modeling and multilevel structural equation modeling of the relationship between PD and substance use at ages 12–22. Shared environmental factors contributed to early PD and heavier substance use for females. Biological father absence was associated with early PD for boys but not girls, and did not account for the relationship between PD and substance use. The association between early PD and heavier substance use was partially due to between-family confounds, although early PD appeared to qualitatively alter long-term trajectories for some substances (nicotine), but not others (alcohol). Mediation by peer and parental factors did not explain this relationship within families. However, higher peer substance use and lower parental monitoring were themselves associated with heavier substance use, strengthening the existing evidence for these factors as targets for prevention/intervention efforts. Early maturation was not supported as a robust determinant of alcohol use trajectories in adolescence and young adulthood, but may require longer term follow-up. Subtle effects of early PD on nicotine and illicit drug use trajectories throughout adolescence and adulthood merit further investigation.
Estrogen-based hormone replacement therapy (HRT) may be associated with deceleration of cellular aging. We investigated whether long-term HRT has effects on leukocyte (LTL) or mean and minimum skeletal muscle telomere length (SMTL) in a design that controls for genotype and childhood environment. Associations between telomeres, body composition, and physical performance were also examined. Eleven monozygotic twin pairs (age 57.6 ± 1.8 years) discordant for HRT were studied. Mean duration of HRT use was 7.3 ± 3.7 years in the user sister, while their co-twins had never used HRT. LTL was measured by qPCR and SMTLs by southern blot. Body and muscle composition were estimated by bioimpedance and computed tomography, respectively. Physical performance was measured by jumping height and grip strength. HRT users and non-users did not differ in LTL or mean or minimum SMTL. Within-pair correlations were high in LTL (r = 0.69, p = .020) and in mean (r = 0.74, p = .014) and minimum SMTL (r = 0.88, p = .001). Body composition and performance were better in users than non-users. In analyses of individuals, LTL was associated with BMI (r2 = 0.30, p = .030), percentage total body (r2 = 0.43, p = .014), and thigh (r2 = 0.55, p = .004) fat, while minimum SMTL was associated with fat-free mass (r2 = 0.27, p = .020) and thigh muscle area (r2 = 0.42, p = .016). We found no associations between HRT use and telomere length. Longer LTLs were associated with lower total and regional fat, while longer minimum SMTLs were associated with higher fat-free mass and greater thigh muscle area. This suggests that telomeres measured from different tissues may have different associations with measures of body composition.