A new study out of Australia found that girls whose mothers smoked while pregnant entered puberty at a younger age than their peers, according to Reuters Health.
Those who menstruate early are already at a higher risk of uterine, endometrial and breast cancers later in life, meaning maternal smoking could make daughters vulnerable to certain health problems even before they exit the womb.
"The real take home message of this study is that we have probably just hit the tip of the iceberg in terms of understanding just how harmful smoking during pregnancy can be on the child," said Alison Behie, a biological anthropologist at Australian National University in Canberra and the study's lead author. "Being able to potentially quantify the increased risk for the daughters of smokers would give more weight to the argument made here."
Published in the journal Human Reproduction, the study evaluated about 1,500 girls and collected data such as their mother's age at her first period, the body weight of the girl when she was eight or nine years old, the girl's birth weight and the mother's cigarette smoking during pregnancy.
The study reports that daughters exposed to regular smoking in utero were about 40 percent more likely than girls of non-smoking mothers to have an early age of first menstruation.
Behie said that other health risks children face when their mother smoked while pregnant include low birth weight, asthma, type 2 diabetes and obesity.
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