Down syndrome is a common birth defect that occurs in approximately one in every 800 to 1,000 newborns. This syndrome includes mild to moderate mental retardation and other health problems such as cardiac valvular disease, along with specific physical characteristics which include a sloping forehead, low-set ears, and short, broad hands.
The most common form of Down syndrome, trisomy 21, is caused by the presence of an extra 21st chromosome. The cause of the occurrence of this extra chromosome is unknown but appears to be related to the age of the mother and usually occurs in women over the age of 40.
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