Vidyya Medical News Service
Volume 6 Issue 207 Published - 14:00 UTC 08:00 EST 25-Jul-2004 Next Update - 14:00 UTC 08:00 EST 26-Jul-2004
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Active smoking during pregnancy increases risk for orofacial clefts

Cleft lip, with or without a cleft palate, is one of the most common types of structural birth defects, occurring as often as 1.7/1000 live births in the United Kingdom. These defects not only present potential psychological problems for the individual and his or her family, but health-related services can also be a burden financially. Therefore, it is important to identify the causes and means of prevention of orofacial clefts.

The July 2004 issue of the Cleft-Palate–Craniofacial Journal features a population-based case-control study that monitored the connection between maternal exposure to tobacco smoke during the first trimester of pregnancy and the occurrence of orofacial clefts in newborns. In a number of previous studies, a positive association between cigarette smoking and orofacial clefts was observed. However, evidence of a dose–response relationship was inconsistent.

In this study, conducted from 1997 to 2000, it was evident there was a small increased risk for a cleft lip, with or without a cleft palate, in the children of women who smoked during pregnancy. These data add to the evidence from other studies conducted in northern Europe and North America. There was also evidence of a dose–response effect of maternal smoking for both types of clefts.

Participants for the study were recruited from predetermined regions of Scotland and England and formally interviewed about six months after childbirth. Information was gathered about the mother’s smoking history before and during pregnancy, the number and type of cigarette smoked (filter/nonfiltered), and the timing and duration of exposure.

The effects of second-hand smoke were also considered. The data collected in regard to passive smoking were comparable to those of mothers who smoked. However, the study lacked solid statistical evidence to support or exclude the effect of second-hand smoke on orofacial clefts.

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