Smoking Fathers Can Raise Risk of Genetic Mutations in Offspring

When a couple has decided that they want to have a baby, it's a huge decision. Two people are offering up their genes to be recombined with one another and the result will ultimately be their future child. Believe it or not, the environment can play a rather big part in this genetic transfer.

A new study published online in the FASEB Journal found that paternal smoking may have a significant impact on a father's genes that are being passed on. Smoking can damage genes and increase any individual's odds for cancer and other diseases. When inherited, these genes can also be detrimental to the offspring later in life, causing similar consequences.

The study revealed that non-smoking fathers significantly reduced the risk of future disease in their offspring since smoking can cause germ cell mutagens.

When a father smokes around the time of conception, it may lead to genetic alterations in his child. This indicates that the harmful effects of smoking may be transmitted from the father to the offspring during fertilization, according to Diana Anderson, Ph.D., a researcher involved in the study and a biomedical student from the UK's University of Bradford.

Offspring of tobacco-using men may even be more susceptible to cancers, such as leukemia. Therefore, prospective fathers should be encouraged to quit smoking if they routinely partake in the habit before conceiving.

Researchers observed the DNA of families in two different European regions to measure the genetic changes in a father's blood and semen around the time of conception. They also looked at umbilical cord blood after delivery. This allowed scientists to evaluate the influence of smoking exposure before conception and during pregnancy.

"If dad uses cigarettes, his kids will be affected even before they are born," said Gerald Weissmann, M.D., editor-in-chief of the FASEB Journal. 

Have you had any experiences of paternal smoking around the time of conception? What are your thoughts on the matter? Leave your answers in the comments section!