Smoking has been identified as a significant major risk factor for cleft palates by a Professor at the University of Dundee. Smoking is a well known risk factor for cancer and heart disease but this is the first time that its has been shown as a cause of such deformities in a UK population.
Professor Peter Mossey, from the University of Dundee's Dental School is leading a World Health Organisation project looking at the causes of cleft and lip palates across the globe. He says: "Scotland has one of the highest cleft palate incidences in the world but has an average rate of cleft lip and palate. Up to nearly 70% of mothers in the 16 to 19 year age group with cleft palate children smoke, and although there are other factors contributing, smoking appears to be a major risk factor for cleft palate in children."
The closure of development palate takes place during a critical 48 hour period when the child is still a foetus in the early stages of pregnancy at 6-8 weeks. Professor Mossy explains: "Often women don't know that they are pregnant at this early stage and may still be smoking and binge drinking without realising that this could have serious consequences for the baby developing in their womb.
Although we know smoking is a major health risk it is not generally known that the effects of smoking can be passed down from mother to the developing child in such serious ways. I hope that these findings will enter the public consciousness and serve as a further deterrent to smoking."
The causes of cleft palate are many and not all have yet been identified. However Professor Peter Mossy believes that 10-20% of cleft palates could be explained by smoking. The other factors that are being investigated suggested are genetic pre-disposition to the condition and other environmental factors such as nutrition, alcohol and passive smoking. Professor Mossey believes that vitamins B6, B12 and Riboflavin could be beneficial in the prevention of to prevent cleft palate.
Recent figures reveal that cleft lip and/or cleft palate occurs in approximately 1 in 700 live births in Scotlandcurrently show cleft palate deformity.