WOMEN'S HEALTH
December 29, 2008

Up in Smoke

Women who are exposed to secondhand smoke may have more trouble getting pregnant or, once pregnant, have increased chances of having a miscarriage.
According to a study reported in the journal Tobacco Control, women who are exposed to secondhand cigarette smoke may have more trouble getting pregnant or, once pregnant, have increased chances of having a miscarriage. The study looked at 4,800 nonsmoking women who lived with a smoker at some point in their lives.

Forty percent of the women exposed to secondhand smoke reported having had a difficult time getting pregnant ...

Lead researcher Luke J. Peppone and his team analyzed the questionnaires of women who visited the Roswell Park Cancer Center, over a period of 16 years, either for screenings or for treatment. The surveys included questions about family history, personal habits, and other environmental exposures. Women who had been exposed to cigarette smoke also reported whether the smoker was a parent or spouse, and for how many hours per day the exposure had typically been.

Four out of five of the women in the study had been exposed to cigarette smoke for at least six hours per day either as children or adults — and all women had tried to become pregnant or had been pregnant at least once in their lives. Forty percent of the women exposed to secondhand smoke reported having had a difficult time getting pregnant, i.e., trying unsuccessfully for at least one year, or having had at least one miscarriage. The data indicate a 68% greater likelihood of fertility problems or miscarriage in women exposed to secondhand smoke.

"These statistics are breathtaking and certainly points to yet another danger of second hand smoke exposure," said Peppone.

Many of the study's participants had grown up in the decades prior to the Surgeon General's first warning about the hazards of cigarettes, which came in 1964. Given the emphasis on public awareness campaigns and smoking bans since that time, hopefully fewer people have been subject to the adverse effects of secondhand smoke in recent years, but clearly it is still a serious health concern.

The study was conducted by researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center and the James P. Wilmot Cancer Center.
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