RESEARCHERS AT THE UNIVERSITY OF OULU, in collaboration with scientists from Imperial College London, has determined that smoking during pregnancy can irreversibly alter foetal DNA, in one of the most comprehensive studies ever conducted into the topic.
Researchers gathered data from over 18,000 subjects in a number of countries, including the UK and the US, exploring the effects of tobacco smoking on mothers and children both before and after pregnancy.
The ground-breaking research has determined that, rather than changing the genetic code of an unborn child, carcinogens found in cigarette smoke can add or remove chemical groups to their DNA.
These chemical groups can permanently alter DNA throughout a child’s life, leaving them particularly prone to cardiovascular diseases, high blood pressure, and obesity later in life.
It has been hoped that the research will inform public health policy in the future, both in Finland and beyond. Worldwide is it estimated that around 53% of female smokers continue to smoke during pregnancy, presenting a significant risk to public health.
It is estimated that smoking-related health problems cost Finland 2.5 billion euros a year in healthcare costs and lost productivity.
Adam Oliver Smith – HT