AIMS To investigate socioeconomic inequalities in the risk of congenital anomalies, focusing on risk of specific anomaly subgroups.
METHODS A total of 858 cases of congenital anomaly and 1764 non-malformed control births were collected between 1986 and 1993 from four UK congenital malformation registers, for the purposes of a European multicentre case control study on congenital anomaly risk near hazardous waste landfill sites. As a measure of socioeconomic status, cases and controls were given a value for the area level Carstairs deprivation index, by linking the postcode of residence at birth to census enumeration districts (areas of approximately 150 households).
RESULTS Risk of non-chromosomal anomalies increased with increasing socioeconomic deprivation. The risk in the most deprived quintile of the deprivation index was 40% higher than in the most affluent quintile. Some malformation subgroups also showed increasing risk with increasing deprivation: all cardiac defects, malformations of the cardiac septa, malformations of the digestive system, and multiple malformations. No evidence for socioeconomic variation was found for other non-chromosomal malformation groups, including neural tube defects and oral clefts. A decreasing risk with increasing deprivation found for all chromosomal malformations and Down's syndrome in unadjusted analyses, occurred mainly as a result of differences in the maternal age distribution between social classes.
CONCLUSION Our data, although based on limited numbers of cases and geographical coverage, suggest that more deprived populations have a higher risk of congenital anomalies of non-chromosomal origin and some specific anomalies. Larger studies are needed to confirm these findings and to explore their aetiological implications.
- congenital anomaly
- social class
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