Moms To Be Can Pass Cancer Through Smoking
Mothers who smoke during pregnancy may be able to pass on cancer to their unborn babies, according to new research.
A study by scienstists at Boston University showed that a powerful cancer-causing chemical in cigarettes was found in the wombs of expectant women.
They claim that exposing a foetus to the carcinogen called NNAL may be the first stage of a "double hit", making it more susceptible to the disease in later life.
Professor Aubrey Milunsky said his team was now preparing to check the findings against health records for the children of thousands of smokers born in the 1940s and 50s.
He said: "Any woman who smokes is passing on this potent carcinogen to their baby. This is the first time a tobacco-specific carcinogen has been found in the amniotic fluid that surrounds babies in the womb."
The study - published in the journal Prenatal Diagnosis - showed NNAL in the wombs of 52 percent of female smokers but just 7 percent of non-smokers.
"It is possible that the women who did not smoke had been subjected to passive smoking," said Prof Milunsky, "either from the men they live with or in public places."
He said that there was no firm evidence yet to show that the substance would cause cancer in children, but added that "exposure to carcinogens can cause concern through the two-hit mechanism".
This means that exposure in the womb could be the first hit, with any exposure to another carcinogen later in life could cause cancer.
Current medical advice already warns that women who smoke have a greater risk of miscarriage, their babies are likely to have a low birth weight, and growth is likely to be stunted.