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Quitting smoking during pregnancy may not be enough to prevent harm to baby

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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Cigarette smoke plays an undisputed role in the development of lung and other cancers. Carcinogens in the smoke damage DNA, which often results in mutations in genes that promote the development of cancer. It’s also well known that secondhand smoke can have effects indistinguishable from active smoking. While maternal tobacco smoking has been associated with low birth weight, premature delivery and brain and lung defects, only a few studies have found evidence of genetic mutations in the newborn resulting from exposure to tobacco smoke while in the womb.

A new study by Stephen Grant, professor of environmental and occupational health at the University of Pittsburgh, confirms that both active smoking and passive exposure to secondhand smoke in pregnant women lead to genetic damage in newborns. Importantly, the research shows that there was a similar frequency of mutations among smoking mothers, those exposed to secondhand smoke, and moms-to-be that quit smoking after they learned of their pregnancy. The authors conclude that quitting smoking during pregnancy without actively avoiding exposure to secondhand smoke may not protect the developing fetus. The results were published online June 30 in the Open Pediatric Medicine Journal.

"These findings back up our previous conclusion that passive, or secondary, smoke causes permanent genetic damage in newborns that is very similar to the damage caused by active smoking," Grant said in a prepared statement.

Grant looked for mutations in the gene known as GPA in red blood cells collected from the cord blood of babies born to mothers exposed to smoke. The results are in agreement with previous studies that analyzed white blood cells from newborn cord blood for mutations in HPRT, a different gene commonly used as a biomarker for exposure to carcinogens. Those studies also documented a correlation between maternal exposure to both primary and secondhand smoke and increases in the frequency of HPRT mutations.

"By using a different assay, we were able to pick up a completely distinct yet equally important type of genetic mutation that is likely to persist throughout a child’s lifetime," Grant said. He concluded that the assays for mutations in either gene should be considered complementary tests, reflecting mutations that occur through different mechanisms.

"Pregnant women should not only stop smoking, but be aware of their exposure to tobacco smoke from other family members, work and social situations," Grant said.

Image courtesy of iStockPhoto





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  1. 1. Terminator 6:57 am 07/5/2010

    Don’t use cigarettes should all women not pregnant only. It’s true, in my mind, tobacco smoke influences to human genes. Because people who stop smoke recently feel bad all last life. Not in mind only.

    Link to this
  2. 2. xlander 8:40 am 07/5/2010

    I can confirm that I am a statistic. I don’t know why it took so long other than fighting money. Anyway asthma and chronic bronchitis. The link is smoking mother during pregnancy, and smoking family since. A good alternative to smoking is not that electric device the best option is to stop. You wouldn’t soot me if you met me so why influence my life negatively through smoking. Please remove your plug ad from the page that is just wrong. Nicotine is a poison even if you use the electric device.

    Link to this
  3. 3. ender3711 12:44 pm 07/5/2010

    Oh you guys, don’t be so easily swayed. Notice how they didn’t publish a link to the actual study data. This "researcher" that calls himself Grant is obviously a spin doctor. NO REAL STUDIES HAVE EVER CONCLUDED THAT SECOND HAND SMOKE EXISTS. It is a fabrication of a weak minded and fearful community. If you post a link to Grants study, I would have a thousand holes punched in it before nightfall. Guaranteed. He’s a liar and a fearmonger. Enough said.

    Link to this
  4. 4. ender3711 12:59 pm 07/5/2010

    … And as a reply to Mary1980. First off – was that an advertisement for greensmoke? wtf? Second, I have tried hundreds of e-cigarettes including greensmoke. And I would have to say GreenSmoke has got to be one of the worst. I’m sorry, but it’s true. And Third, if anyone IS looking for a good e-cigarette – after months of actually searching for one, I stumbled across a company at http://www.vapor4life.com – V4L blows everyone out of the water. Superior eliquids, superior cartomizers, superior battery life … AND supreme customer service. I’m sorry, but greensmoke, in my opinion, is at the bottom of the barrel.

    Link to this
  5. 5. Gerrly 4:08 pm 07/5/2010

    What horribly unintelligible comments.

    Link to this
  6. 6. ender3711 4:14 pm 07/5/2010

    Well, we’re all horribly unintelligible people sir.

    Link to this
  7. 7. harleyrider1978 6:50 pm 07/5/2010

    If you look at the main table in the new study you’ll see the figures plus the standard deviation range. That’s a little different from the usual Confidence Interval type evaluation but it’s similar in some ways. You’ll notice that the authors are basically comparing numbers like 3.5 to 4.7 and saying "Hey! the exposed kids had 4.7!" The only problem with this is that the full figures look like this:

    3.5 +or- 1.8
    and
    4.7 +or- 2.6

    So all that they really found was this:

    Unexposed kids had a level of between 1.7 and 5.3
    Exposed kids had a level of between… 2.1 and 7.3

    So most of the kids in both groups were more or less between 2.1 and 5.3 and could have been in either group. The wide variation/range (indicated by the large SD compared to the absolute numbers) indicates that the findings were not really significant in general, although the authors somehow claim that at least one of their subfindings came out as significant.

    BUT…. if you do research and get 20 findings, then even if there is NO true relation in what you’re studying you’ll still, on average, get one "significant" finding among your variables purely by chance, so I’d say it’s pretty meaningless.

    Link to this
  8. 8. harleyrider1978 6:56 pm 07/5/2010

    http://1360online.com/cc-common/seasonal/health/sub.html?feed=104679&article=7310156

    (UPI) – Researchers say children of non-smoking women exposed to secondhand smoke during pregnancy have genetic mutations that can affect their health permanently.
    The study, published online in the Open Pediatric Medicine Journal, found the smoking-related abnormalities were indistinguishable from those found in newborns of mothers who were active smokers.
    Study author Stephen G. Grant of the Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health says the effects of the secondhand smoke may affect survival, birth weight and lifelong susceptibility to diseases like cancer.
    Grant found the mutation was the same level and type in newborns of mothers who were active smokers and those of non-smoking mothers exposed to tobacco smoke.
    "These findings back up our previous conclusion that passive, or secondary, smoke causes permanent genetic damage in newborns that is very similar to the damage caused by active smoking," Grant says in a statement. "We were able to pick up a completely distinct yet equally important type of genetic mutation that is likely to persist throughout a child’s lifetime. Pregnant women should not only stop smoking, but be aware of their exposure to tobacco smoke from other family members, work and social situations."

    Now look at this,seems the good ole doc has been fudging with the numbers before even when he knew better………3 PRIOR STUDIES concluded shs didnt harm fetuses genetically or even active smoking………for the most part……..but this quack doesnt stop,still beating the same drum.

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/07/050726125900.htm

    This is a startlingly different conclusion than that reached by three previous studies looking at the potential effects of tobacco smoke exposure to babies in the womb, one of which Dr. Grant co-authored. The primary papers largely discounted the effects of secondary — and sometimes even direct exposure through maternal smoking — or produced contradictory results.
    The original studies looked at mutation rates at the HPRT gene located on the X chromosome in cord blood samples from newborns. Dr. Grant’s analysis pooled the studies’ data, looking for frequency of induced mutation as well as the resulting molecular spectrum of mutations. In particular, the new analysis redefines the "non-smokers" used as controls to consider their second-hand exposure to tobacco smoke through other family members at home, at work or in social situations at restaurants or even outdoors.

    Link to this
  9. 9. harleyrider1978 7:00 pm 07/5/2010

    http://carcin.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/22/9/1447

    "No statistically significant correlation was observed between individual or total DNA adduct levels and personal exposure to PM2.5 or total PAH when all the samples, regardless of location, were taken into consideration (Figure 2). Similarly, no association was observed when the samples were classified separately according to location or season (data not shown)."

    But when they sliced and diced the data in unsual ways they saw things that weren’t really there. The data distribution of figure 2 is a normal curve and the expected anomolies that are seen in almost all scientific measurements are still there. Significance is found by throwing out the extremely high and low meaurements … not by dwelling on the weird crap my testing "discovered".

    In this case the researchers were unable to establish a correlation, a causation or anything else except a "sensation".

    I prefer to blame it on the researchers … and the Bossa Nova.

    Link to this
  10. 10. harleyrider1978 7:16 pm 07/5/2010

    http://carcin.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/22/9/1447

    "No statistically significant correlation was observed between individual or total DNA adduct levels and personal exposure to PM2.5 or total PAH when all the samples, regardless of location, were taken into consideration (Figure 2). Similarly, no association was observed when the samples were classified separately according to location or season (data not shown)."

    But when they sliced and diced the data in unsual ways they saw things that weren’t really there. The data distribution of figure 2 is a normal curve and the expected anomolies that are seen in almost all scientific measurements are still there. Significance is found by throwing out the extremely high and low meaurements … not by dwelling on the weird crap my testing "discovered".

    In this case the researchers were unable to establish a correlation, a causation or anything else except a "sensation".

    I prefer to blame it on the researchers … and the Bossa Nova.

    Link to this
  11. 11. harleyrider1978 7:21 pm 07/5/2010

    http://carcin.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/22/9/1447

    "No statistically significant correlation was observed between individual or total DNA adduct levels and personal exposure to PM2.5 or total PAH when all the samples, regardless of location, were taken into consideration (Figure 2). Similarly, no association was observed when the samples were classified separately according to location or season (data not shown)."

    But when they sliced and diced the data in unsual ways they saw things that weren’t really there. The data distribution of figure 2 is a normal curve and the expected anomolies that are seen in almost all scientific measurements are still there. Significance is found by throwing out the extremely high and low meaurements … not by dwelling on the weird crap my testing "discovered".

    In this case the researchers were unable to establish a correlation, a causation or anything else except a "sensation".

    I prefer to blame it on the researchers … and the Bossa Nova..

    Link to this
  12. 12. harleyrider1978 7:27 pm 07/5/2010

    let alone the fact that 15-20 thousand genetic changes occur in any given day in humans and that cell replication fixes these dna variations with in hours to days………but thats what they dont want to tell you!

    Link to this
  13. 13. BJ Bonobo 8:43 pm 07/5/2010

    Nicotine is the most harmful and and addictive drug readily available to almost anyone. I didn’t even care for the jagged little rush that cigarettes provide but was unable to quit until smoking was prohibited in all public places in the city where I live . If nothing else second-hand smoke definitely keeps manypersons addicted.

    Believe me–I am not an addictive personality having scrapped many habit forming drugs in my lifetime but nicotine is fortified with other chemicals to increase its addictive power !

    Check out "The Tobacco Conspiracy" on DVD if you are in any way interested in learning the history and behaviour of those who profit from the sale of this most deadly chemical !!!

    Link to this
  14. 14. harleyrider1978 10:35 pm 07/5/2010

    If nothing else second-hand smoke definitely keeps manypersons addicted.

    Boy your full of it………….shs making folks addicted to nicotine lmao!!!! funny so how long you been a smokefree advocate…….babysitting this story are we…………

    Link to this
  15. 15. rockydutt 2:06 am 07/6/2010

    The authors conclude that quitting smoking during pregnancy without actively avoiding exposure to second-hand smoke may not protect the developing fetus. The results were published online June 30 in the Open Pediatric Medicine Journal.

    <a href="http://www.buyphenterminedietpills.com/">Phentermine Diet Pills</a>

    Link to this
  16. 16. rockydutt 2:06 am 07/6/2010

    he authors conclude that quitting smoking during pregnancy without actively avoiding exposure to second-hand smoke may not protect the developing fetus. The results were published online June 30 in the Open Pediatric Medicine Journal.

    <a href="http://www.buyphenterminedietpills.com/">Phentermine Diet Pills</a>

    Link to this
  17. 17. ender3711 1:56 pm 07/8/2010

    harleyrider1978 … Thanks for digging up that research and posting it. I’m so disappointed in SciAm for writing stories like this, let alone probably getting paid to do so. And my dear BJ Bonobo – what are you talking about? really man. Nicotine may be addictive, but my @$$ it’s harmful. There have been numerous studies that show nicotine increases memory, coats neurons with a protective sheath, and increases problem solving skills in mice and rats. It has also been shown in some studies to curb the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. Aside from all of that, if it wasn’t for nicotine’s saving grace, I would probably still be using heroin and cocaine. So from an x-junky’s perspective, I would rather be addicted to cheap and legal nicotine than expensive and extremely dangerous drugs.

    Link to this
  18. 18. kuala 6:20 am 09/30/2010

    yes i agree with this article.women especially pregnant should quit smoking because this would really harm the baby…my mother used to smoke when she’s pregnant with me that why i have a poor lungs and suffer from asthma…we should take good care of oursleves so we’ll have a <a href="http://www.bio-identical-testosterone.com/bio-identical-testosterone-content/Testosterone-and-Fat.php">healthy</a&gt; baby…

    Link to this
  19. 19. kuala 6:22 am 09/30/2010

    yes i agree with this article.women especially pregnant should quit smoking because this would really harm the baby…my mother used to smoke when she’s pregnant with me that why i have a poor lungs and suffer from asthma…we should take good care of oursleves so we’ll have a [url=http://www.bio-identical-testosterone.com/bio-identical-testosterone-content/Testosterone-and-Fat.php]healthy[/url] baby…

    Link to this
  20. 20. dolftom 3:46 pm 10/25/2010

    It apply to everyone, not only pregnant woman. Smoking does really have a large effect, mostly for the smoker. The best solution is to stop smoking and HELP people to quit smoking. Search and Find the best solution, such as : http://stopsmokinghypnosis.co.cc/

    Link to this
  21. 21. Bandalar 11:01 pm 08/26/2013

    If you’re looking to quit cigarettes, I highly recommend you try e-cigs. My favorite brand of electric cigarettes is http://aquacig.com. Its easier not to relapse with something like this instead of nicotine gum, which didn’t work for me.

    Link to this

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