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A study of 690 Australian families with a child suffering from either acute lymphoblastic leukaemia or childhood brain tumours found men who consumed a moderate amount of spirits – up to seven drinks a week – in the 12 months before conception increased the risk of childhood brain tumours by almost 50 per cent. The Telethon Institute for Child Health Research study also found men who drank 21 or more beers a week might also be placing their future children at greater risk of leukaemia and brain tumours.
Study authors Elizabeth Milne and Carol Bower said with recent data showing 8 per cent of men between the ages of 30 and 39 consumed at least four standard drinks a day, “a large number of men may be putting their future offspring at risk”.
The study concluded that men, as well as women, “should limit their alcohol intake when planning a pregnancy”.
Professor Bower said while there was a great deal of research on the impact that women drinking while pregnant had on babies very few studies had looked at the effects of paternal alcohol consumption.
“We don’t know too much about the causes of leukaemia or brain tumours, so there will certainly be a lot more work being done in this area,” she said.
“As a society we should drink less, and there’s some evidence here that shows alcohol, especially spirits, in fathers in the year before their child is conceived may have an effect.”
The study found no evidence linking maternal alcohol consumption before or during pregnancy with cancer in children.