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The finding is based on the tracking of 1,800 women whose mothers had been participants in an earlier study.
All the mothers had received obstetric care in the San Francisco area at some point between 1959 and 1967. Because the study was initially launched to explore breast cancer risk, no sons were included in the current analysis.
The findings build on prior research suggesting that fetal exposure to cigarettes boosts the risk for both obesity and low birth weight.
"Our findings are consistent with the idea that gestational environmental chemical exposures can contribute to the development of health and disease," study author Michelle La Merrill, an assistant professor of environmental toxicology at University of California, Davis, said in a university news release."
"We found that smoking of parents is by itself a risk factor for diabetes, independent of obesity or birth weight," she added. According to La Merrill, the study suggests that, "if a parent smokes, you're not protected from diabetes just because you're lean."
The study authors found that diabetes risk also seemed to go up among women who had been exposed to smoke in the womb via their father's cigarette habit, though the degree of the rise in risk remains unclear.
However, while the study found an association between smoking during pregnancy and diabetes risk in daughters, it could not prove a cause-and-effect link.
La Merrill and her colleagues report their findings in the Feb. 9 issue of the Journal of Developmental Origins of Health and Disease.
-- Alan Mozes
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SOURCE: University of California, Davis, news release, Feb. 9, 2015