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Monday, January 16, 2006

Smoking In Pregnancy May Cause Finger, Toe Defects

If pregnant smokers need another reason to quit, a new study may have found it. The habit, researchers say, may raise the risk of having a baby with extra, missing or webbed fingers and toes.

Using information from a national database on U.S. births, researchers found that babies born to women who smoked during pregnancy were 31 percent more likely to have such birth anomalies as babies of non-smokers. And the more a woman smoked, the greater the risk.

Li-Xing Man and Dr. Benjamin Chang of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia conducted the study, which is the largest one to date on smoking and birth defects of the fingers and toes. They report the findings in the medical journal Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.

It's estimated that about 1 in 600 infants are born with an extra finger or toe -- an anomaly known as polydactyly. Webbed fingers or toes, called syndactyly, are less common, occurring in one in every 2,000 to 2,500 births. Adactyly refers to the absence of fingers or toes.

While it's well known that prenatal smoking can have serious consequences such as miscarriage, premature delivery and low birth weight, studies have yielded conflicting results on whether smoking can cause birth defects of the fingers and toes.

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