First-trimester binge drinking linked to risk of infant oral clefts

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NEW YORK (Reuters Health), Sep 24 - Women who binge drink in the first trimester of pregnancy have an increased risk of having infants with oral clefts, according to findings published in the September 15 issue of the American Journal of Epidemiology.

"Some evidence exists that women who drink alcohol during pregnancy are more likely than nondrinkers to have infants with facial clefts," Dr. Lisa A. DeRoo and colleagues write, "but summarizing previous findings is hampered by different categories of drinks and time points of reference across studies."

Dr. DeRoo, with the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences in Durham, NC, and colleagues investigated this topic in a population-based, case-control study involving newborn infants with orofacial cleft defects born between 1996 and 2001 in Norway. A total of 377 infants with cleft lip with or without cleft palate, 196 with cleft palate only, and 763 control subjects were included in the study.

Mothers completed self-administered questionnaires within a few months after delivery regarding first-trimester alcohol consumption.

No clear pattern of increased infant cleft risk was observed for categories of total drinks or number of drinking sessions. However, compared with nondrinkers, women who drank at least five drinks per occasion had more than a twofold risk of having an infant with either cleft type. The odds ratio for cleft lip with or without cleft palate was 2.2. For cleft palate only, the OR was 2.6.

"The odds ratios were further increased among women who drank this amount on three or more occasions: for cleft lip with or without cleft palate, odds ratio = 3.2 and cleft palate only, odds ratio = 3.0," Dr. DeRoo and colleagues report.

They conclude: "These data on possible further teratogenic effects of alcohol reinforce the public health message that women should not drink alcohol during pregnancy."

Am J Epidemiol 2008;168:638-646.

Last Updated: 2008-09-23 12:22:39 -0400 (Reuters Health)

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