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Prenatal alcohol exposure and facial morphology in a UK cohort

By Laurence J Howe, Gemma C Sharp, Gibran Hemani, Luisa Zuccolo, Stephen Richmond, Sarah J Lewis

Posted 28 Apr 2018
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/302364 (published DOI: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2018.11.031)

High levels of prenatal alcohol exposure are known to cause an array of adverse outcomes including foetal alcohol syndrome (FAS); however, the effects of low to moderate exposure are less-well characterised. Previous findings suggest that differences in normal-range facial morphology may be a marker for alcohol exposure and related adverse effects. Therefore, in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children, we tested for an association between maternal alcohol consumption and six FAS-related facial phenotypes in their offspring, using both self-report questionnaires and the maternal genotype at rs1229984 in ADH1B as measures of maternal alcohol consumption. In both self-reported alcohol consumption (N=4,233) and rs1229984 genotype (N=3,139) analyses, we found no strong statistical evidence for an association between maternal alcohol consumption and facial phenotypes tested. The directions of effect estimates were compatible with the known effects of heavy alcohol exposure, but confidence intervals were largely centred around zero. We conclude that, in a sample representative of the general population, there is no strong evidence for an effect of prenatal alcohol exposure on normal-range variation in facial morphology.

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