MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Alan S. Brown, M.D., M.P.H.
Professor of Psychiatry and Epidemiology
Columbia University Medical Center
Director, Program in Birth Cohort Studies, Division of Epidemiology
New York State Psychiatric Institute
MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?
Dr. Brown: Smoking during pregnancy is a risk factor for several pregnancy-related outcomes including low birthweight and preterm birth. Evidence for a link with schizophrenia is scant. We analyzed a maternal biomarker of smoking called cotinine, a nicotine metabolite, in mothers of nearly 1,000 schizophrenia cases and 1,000 controls in a national birth cohort in Finland. We found that heavy smoking in pregnancy was related to a 38% increase in schizophrenia risk in offspring and that as cotinine levels increased even in the more moderate smokers risk of schizophrenia also increased.
MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?
Dr. Brown: If replicated the findings provide an additional reason to avoid smoking during pregnancy. In addition, they provide further support that biochemical mechanisms related to nicotine might be involved in schizophrenia.
MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?
Dr. Brown: We would like to see this replicated in independent samples and explore the role of genes in combination with environmental exposures.
MedicalResearch.com: Is there anything else you would like to add?
Dr. Brown: This study adds to a growing body of literature that environmental exposures during pregnancy are important in the development of schizophrenia. In previous studies, our group and others have shown that infection, inflammation, and other factors such as low thyroid hormone in the fetal period are also related to increased risks of schizophrenia.
MedicalResearch.com: Thank you for your contribution to the MedicalResearch.com community.
Solja Niemelä, Andre Sourander, Heljä-Marja Surcel, Susanna Hinkka-Yli-Salomäki, Ian W. McKeague, Keely Cheslack-Postava, Alan S. Brown. Prenatal Nicotine Exposure and Risk of Schizophrenia Among Offspring in a National Birth Cohort. American Journal of Psychiatry, 2016; appi.ajp.2016.1 DOI: 10.1176/appi.ajp.2016.15060800
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