World's oldest person dies in Japan at age 119

Kane Tanaka at age 116 when she was recognized as the world's oldest living person by Guinness World Records.
Kane Tanaka at age 116 when she was recognized as the world's oldest living person by Guinness World Records. (Image credit: Guinness World Records)

Kane Tanaka of Japan, who was the world's oldest living person, has died at age 119, according to news reports.

Tanaka was born on Jan. 2, 1903 and died on April 19, according to CNN.

According to Guinness World Records, Tanaka became the world's oldest living person on Jan. 30, 2019 at 116 years and 28 days old. She held the title for three years, until her death last week.

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In recent months, Tanaka's family reported that she had frequently been sick and was in and out of the hospital, according to CNN.

Tanaka was a two-time cancer survivor who worked in her family's store until age 103, CNN reported. She married at age 19 and had five children — four biological children and one adopted, according to Guinness World Records.

How long a person lives is thought to be influenced by genetics, environment and lifestyle, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Scientists have been studying centenarians (people who live to 100) and "supercentenarians" (people who live to 110 and beyond) to better understand the factors that contribute to long life spans.

Some scientists speculate that lifestyle factors, including diet and exercise, play an important role in the first 80 years of life, after which genetic factors become more and more important in keeping a person healthy as they age, according to the NIH. Tanaka reportedly loved eating chocolate and drinking soda, according to NPR.

Genetic variants that have been linked to longer life spans include variants in the ABO, CDKN2B, APOE and SH2B3 genes, Live Science previously reported. These variants have been found to be more common in centenarians than in people with average life spans.

Following Tanaka's death, Guinness World Records confirmed that the current world's oldest living person is Lucile Randon, also known as Sister André, of France, who is 118 years 73 days old. She is also the oldest person to survive an infection with COVID-19, Live Science previously reported.

Originally published on Live Science.

Rachael Rettner

Rachael is a Live Science contributor, and was a former channel editor and senior writer for Live Science between 2010 and 2022. She has a master's degree in journalism from New York University's Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program. She also holds a B.S. in molecular biology and an M.S. in biology from the University of California, San Diego. Her work has appeared in Scienceline, The Washington Post and Scientific American.