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Study: Second-Hand Smoke Linked to Female Infertility

Dec 22, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP

A new study reveals women who have routinely been around smokers may face greater challenges when trying to conceive.  Reuters Health said that while previous studies have  indicated that female smokers increase their risks of pregnancy complications, miscarriage and infant health problems, this latest study is showing other risks.

Over 4,800 women were included  in the study, which was led by  Luke J. Peppone, Ph.D., research assistant professor at Rochester's James P. Wilmot Cancer Center at the University of Rochester, New York, Reuters said.  Peppone's team found those who were raised with a parent who smoked were likelier to report problems conceiving after having tried for the one-year mark by which infertility problems are generally identified, said Reuters.  Women exposed to second-hand smoke as both children and adults saw a 39 percent increased likelihood of undergoing a miscarriage or stillbirth and a 68 percent greater chance of experiencing infertility problems.

"These statistics are breathtaking and certainly (point) to yet another danger of second-hand smoke exposure.  We all know that cigarettes and second-hand smoke are dangerous.  Breathing the smoke has lasting effects, especially for women when they're ready for children," Peppone told Reuters.  

The team found that four out of five women reported exposure to second-hand smoke during their lifetime, with half growing up in a home with smoking parents and nearly two-thirds exposed to some second-hand smoking at the time of the survey, said Science Daily.  Over 40 percent had difficulty getting pregnant, with infertility lasting over a year, or suffered miscarriages, some more than once, said Science Daily.

The researchers said health problems increased based on daily hours the woman was exposed to second-hand smoke.  Reuters said this indicated  “a cause-effect relationship.”  Peppone explained such smoke contains a variety of toxins that could damage a woman's reproductive health, with tobacco possibly harming cells’ genetic material, causing conception problems, increasing miscarriage risk, or restraining or stopping hormones necessary for “conception and a successful pregnancy,” Reuters said.

For the study, researchers looked at 4,804 surveys completed by women who had received health screening or underwent cancer treatment at Rochester University’s Roswell Park Cancer Institute between 1982 and 1998,  All had been pregnant at least once, said Science Daily.  The  women generally grew up in the 1940s and 1950s, prior to the surgeon general’s first warning about cigarettes in 1964.  The data was obtained from the Patient Epidemiology Data System, which has been used to derive information on other cancers, Science Daily said.

The survey was 16 pages long and looked at “lifestyle, habits, family and personal health history, and occupational and environmental exposures,” said Science Daily.  No participant reported ever having smoked; information included if either or both parents smoked, if the women lived with or worked with smokers as adults, and how long the women were exposed to second-hand smoke.

Study findings appear in the December 5th online issue of Tobacco Control, said Reuters.  Science Daily notes that Tobacco Control is one of the first publications to reveal second-hand smokes’ long-term effects on women of childbearing age.


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