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Recent studies on the effects of fetal alcohol exposure on the endocrine and immune systems.

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Department of Anatomy, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada.


It has been known for many years that alcohol can alter both endocrine and immune function in the adult organism. Acting directly on the endocrine glands themselves, and/or at the level of the pituitary or brain, alcohol has been shown to alter secretory activity of most of the endocrine systems that have been studied. Similarly, the association between alcoholism and infections and between alcoholism and certain forms of cancer has long been recognized by clinicians. While for many years there was uncertainty about the extent to which the alterations in immune function were a direct result of alcohol consumption or a consequence of the medical complications of alcoholism, recent research on the effects of alcohol on cell-mediated and humoral immunity have demonstrated that alcohol consumption may indeed be associated with immune impairment, independent of nutritional deficiencies, liver disease, or general poor health that may occur. However, it is only recently, as our knowledge of the teratogenic effects of alcohol on the developing organism has expanded, that the effects of fetal alcohol exposure on endocrine and immune function of the offspring have begun to receive considerable attention. This review will discuss recent clinical and experimental literature on the effects of fetal alcohol exposure on offspring endocrine and immune development.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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