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Module 3: Risk Factors for FASD

Genetic Susceptibility

Genetic Susceptibility

There is no indication that fetal gender plays a role in the incidence of FASD, nor has research shown that the risk of FASD is associated with race or ethnicity  alone. While some populations have higher documented rates of FASD, this may be for a variety of reasons. Most likely, higher rates of FASD correspond to higher prevalence of alcohol use as well as the way some women metabolize alcohol.

Maternal genetic factors can play a part in how much alcohol a woman uses and the effects alcohol will have on her and her fetus. Researchers have found that women who have a certain gene and who drink during pregnancy may be more likely than women without the gene to give birth to a child with FAS; this gene affects the rate of alcohol metabolism, increasing it in women who have it. Because women with this gene may be able to drink more before they feel the full effects of the alcohol, they may expose their fetus to alcohol at higher levels.9

Genetic susceptibility to the effects of alcohol may explain some instances of FASD. Fraternal twins exposed to equal amounts of alcohol can be affected differently at birth. They also can have different degrees of impairment later in life. Identical twins are much more likely to be similarly affected by prenatal alcohol exposure.10  However, FASD is not genetically transmitted. People cannot inherit an FASD.

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