A major study has provided more evidence that children of fathers who smoke are more likely to develop childhood cancers, British scientists said Monday.
Researchers at Birmingham University compared the lifestyles of 1,549 parents whose children died from cancer from 1953 to 1955 with those of the same number of parents of healthy children during the same period.
The findings, published in the British Journal of Cancer, show a “highly significant” link between fathers who smoke and the incidence of childhood cancers, they said.
Researchers concluded that as many as 15 percent of cases of childhood cancer might be due to fathers damaging their sperm by smoking.
The more a father smokes, the greater the child’s chance of getting cancer, they added.
Taking the risk factor for children of non-smokers as 1, they said, the risk for children of men who smoked 10-20 cigarettes a day was 1.31, increasing to 1.42 for children of men who smoked more than 20 a day.
A number of earlier studies already have suggested a link between fathers’ smoking and childhood cancers like leukemia and brain tumors.
Laboratory experiments have shown that chemicals in tobacco smoke can cause the kind of damage to sperm that leads to cancer.
So far, research has not suggested any link between mothers who smoke and childhood cancers.
Studies have shown, however, than smoking during pregnancy increases risk for just about everything else, including low birth weight, miscarriage and still-birth.