- WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Researchers on Tuesday said they had found traces
of a cancer-causing agent in the urine of babies born to women who smoked.
- Of 31 babies born to smokers, 22 had
the chemical in the first sample of urine collected after birth, the researchers
reported in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.
- Stephen Hecht of the University of Minnesota
and colleagues at Heinrich Heine University in Dusseldorf, Germany said
they found by-products of NNK, a chemical derived from nicotine, in the
urine they tested.
- NNK is known to cross the placenta from
mother to baby, and causes cancer in animals.
- Although nicotine itself is not considered
to be a cancer-causing agent, some of its breakdown products are.
- Hecht, who reported some of his findings
last year to a meeting of the American Chemical Society in Boston, said
the study showed that babies are absorbing cancer-causing agents from their
mothers before birth.
- Other studies have shown that mothers
can pass on elements of tobacco smoke to their babies in breast milk.
- Smoking is known to increase the risk
of having a baby with a low birth weight, as well are increasing the risk
of losing a baby to sudden infant death syndrome, also known as SIDS or
- "In spite of this, only 39 percent
of smokers quit while pregnant and of those who quit, 70 percent resume
within one year of giving birth," Hecht wrote.
- He said studies are not yet clear on
whether babies born to smokers are at higher risk of cancer in their lifetimes.
- Hecht reported in 1997 that NNK had been
found in the urine of nonsmoking adults who were exposed to cigarette smoke