Studies in the United States have indicated that maternal first trimester smoking and infant transforming growth factor alpha (TGFA) locus mutations are associated with non-syndromic cleft lip and/or palate (CLP) and that a synergistic effect of these two risk factors occurs. Based on a Danish case-control study of CLP, the authors studied the effects of smoking and TGFA alleles in an ethnically homogeneous setting. Interview information was obtained for mothers of 302 CLP cases (96% of eligible) and for 567 mothers of nonmalformed children (94% of eligible). Multivariate logistic regression analyses revealed that smoking was associated with a moderately increased risk of cleft lip +/- cleft palate (CL(P)) (odds ratio = 1.40, 95% confidence interval 0.99-2.00). No association between smoking and isolated cleft palate (CP) was observed. TGFA genotype was not associated with either CL(P) or CP, and no synergistic effect with smoking was observed. The "rare" TGFA allele occurred in 25% of both cases and controls compared with an average of 14% in other white control groups. Furthermore, the frequency of CLP in Scandinavia is among the highest in the world. Hence, it is possible that the previously reported association between TGFA and CLP to some degree can be attributable to confounding by ethnicity.
American Journal of Epidemiology, 1999, Vol 149, Issue 3, p. 248-255