J Epidemiol 2019 Jan 29;29(1):18-25. Epub 2018 Sep 29.
Department of Preventive Medicine, Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California.
Background: Inherited factors and maternal behaviors are thought to play an important role in the etiology of several congenital malformations. Twin studies can offer additional evidence regarding the contribution of genetic and lifestyle factors to common birth anomalies, but few large-scale studies have been reported.
Methods: We included data from twins (20,803 pairs) from the population-based California Twin Program. We compared concordance in monozygotic (MZ) to dizygotic (DZ) twins for the following birth anomalies: clubfoot, oral cleft, spina bifida, muscular dystrophy, deafness, cerebral palsy, strabismus, and congenital heart defects. Each birth anomaly was also examined for the associations with birth characteristics (birthweight and birth order) and parental exposures (age, smoking, and parental education).
Results: The overall prevalence of any selected birth anomaly in California twins was 38 per 1,000 persons, with a slightly decreasing trend from 1957-1982. For pairwise concordance in 6,752 MZ and 7,326 like-sex DZ twin pairs, high MZ:DZ concordance ratios were observed for clubfoot (CR 5.91; P = 0.043) and strabismus (CR 2.52; P = 0.001). Among the total 20,803 pairs, parental smoking was significantly associated with risk of spina bifida (OR 3.48; 95% CI, 1.48-8.18) and strabismus (OR 1.61; 95% CI, 1.28-2.03). A significant quadratic trend of increasing risk for clubfoot, spina bifida, and strabismus was found when examining whether father smoked, mother smoked, or both parents smoked relative to non-smoking parents (P = 0.029, 0.026, and 0.0005, respectively).
Conclusions: Our results provide evidence for a multifactorial etiology underlying selected birth anomalies. Further research is needed to understand the biological mechanisms.