It is a scientifically proven fact that pregnant women shouldn’t smoke because it puts their baby’s health at risk for many diseases. New research also reveals that men who smoke around the time their babies are conceived may also cause health problems for their children in the future.
According to lead researcher Professor Diana Anderson from the Division of Medical Sciences at the University of Bradford, smoking causes DNA changes in the father’s sperm which can get passed on to the offspring.
The researchers explained that most diseases, especially almost all cancers, are caused by genetic changes. If children inherit smoking-caused genetic changes from the fathers, then their risk for developing certain diseases may increase.
The researchers used DNA biomarkers to distinguish between the DNA inherited from the mother and DNA inherited from the father or, more specifically, to track the DNA damage passed on to the offspring that came from the father’s exposure to cigarette smoking.
Using questionnaires, the researchers also collected information from families who participated in the study regarding their lifestyle as well as their environmental and occupational exposures to cigarette smoke, as all these factors can also cause DNA changes.
Professor Anderson explained that while their findings “do not show a direct causal link to any disease,” they do indicate that the lifestyle of a father prior to conceiving a child may still influence the kind of genetic information they’ll pass on to their children. It is not only the mother who has to stop smoking when a couple wants to conceive; the father must also do the same to ensure the health of the baby.
Because it takes about three months for a fertile sperm to develop, added study co-author Dr. Julian Laubenthal, fathers should quit smoking months before even trying to conceive.
She added, “Whilst our cohort size was small, the biomarkers were very sensitive, we were struck by the correlation between paternal smoking around the time of conception and DNA damage found in the newborns.”
The findings are published online in The FASEB Journal.