Smoking During Pregnancy Linked to Infant Leukemia
Through the constant spread of information and multiple campaigns to raise awareness, many people recognize that smoking during pregnancy can lead to a number of fatal diseases for both the smoker and unborn child. However, the unfortunate truth is that even in 2017, there are women who do not realize the tremendous damage that they may be doing when smoking while pregnant. Recent studies show that expecting mothers who smoke cigarettes during their pregnancy may cause chromosomal abnormalities within the cells of the fetus. These chromosomal abnormalities increase the risk for adult and childhood leukemia.
What we have to know about leukemia
Before we continue with the scientific discoveries that discuss the link between smoking and childhood leukemia, it is important to establish the dangers of leukemia itself. Leukemia is a form of cancer of the blood cell producing tissues. This means that having leukemia will result in abnormal blood cells. The belief is that leukemia relates to damage to the genes or chromosomes. It is the most common form of cancer seen in children. Leukemia is also responsible for more deaths in infants and toddlers than any other form of cancer. While it is often used as an encompassing term, there are many different forms of leukemia, two of which are particularly important in kids. These two forms are AML (acute myelogenous leukemia) and ALL (acute lymphoblastic leukemia).
Acute lymphoblastic leukemia – This is the most common form of leukemia in children and 78% of all leukemia cases are ALL cases. Between 1977 and 1995, the number of ALL cases increased almost a full percent each year. Many scientists believe that this increase relates to environmental factors.
Acute non-lymphocytic leukemia – This form of leukemia is the second most common form and makes up 19% of all leukemia cases in children. Unlike AML, this form of leukemia has not seen any significant increases since 1975.
New information about the smoking/childhood leukemia link
There is nothing new about the adverse effects that smoking has on the body, both before, after, and during pregnancy. Just a handful of the health problems commonly associated with smoking cigarettes include low birth weight, birth complications, blood clotting, and infertility. However, the link between damaging an infant’s DNA and smoking cigarettes was not scientifically established until recently in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
The facts of the study
According to co-author Dr. Josep Egozcue (employed at the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona in Bellaterra, Spain), there is an increase of chromosomal lesions in fetus cells in women who smoke during pregnancy. During the study, the researchers interviewed 800 pregnant women and finally came upon 25 women who never smoked once in their life and 25 women who have smoked at least 10 cigarettes daily for a decade or longer. The studies were done by taking amniotic fluid samples during routine amniocentesis.
Researchers found that compared to the nonsmokers, the fetuses of those women who smoked while they were pregnant showed significantly more chromosomal abnormalities, especially in those chromosomal regions that are directly involved in the formation of blood cells. While there is no direct relationship between leukemia and chromosomal damage, it does suggest that a woman smoking while she is pregnant puts her unborn child at more risk than already thought. While it is true that a larger control group would prove beneficial, it should make it obvious that smoking opens the door for additional problems. Thus making it abundantly clear that women need to be informed that they should avoid smoking cigarettes during pregnancy at all costs.
What about the effects of secondhand smoke?
While the study may have been restricted to women who are actual smokers, the results may be just as bad for those pregnant women who live with smokers themselves. The secondhand smoke may put unborn children at risk. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, both women exposed to secondhand smoke during their reproductive years and women who smoked during pregnancy increased the risk of preterm delivery, fetal growth restriction, and stillbirths. While scientific studies may be needed to confirm or deny the fact, it may be realistic to assume that those who are around secondhand smoke are also at risk for childhood leukemia. Further emphasizing the dangers.