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Cleft Lip and Palate

There is no one cause of cleft lip and palate. However, most cases are thought to result from multifactorial inheritance—an interaction between the person's genes (genetic predisposition) and specific environmental factors (see, e.g., Beaty et al., 2011). Clefting can also be caused by chromosomal differences in individuals born with genetic syndromes.

Risk factors that increase the likelihood of cleft lip and palate include the following:

  • Strong family history of cleft lip and palate (e.g., Grosen et al., 2010; Natsume, Kawai, Ogi, & Yoshida, 2000; Sivertsen et al., 2008).
  • Race—cleft lip and palate are more common in Asians and Native Americans than in African Americans (see Incidence and Prevalence section).
  • Sex—males are more likely to have cleft lip with or without cleft palate; females are more likely to have cleft palate without cleft lip (see Incidence and Prevalence section).
  • Exposure to certain environmental substances, such as tobacco and alcohol, prescription drugs, and illegal drugs (e.g., Arpino et al., 2000; DeRoo, Wilcox, Drevon, & Lie, 2008; Källén, 2003; Li et al., 2010; Little, Cardy, & Munger, 2004; van Gelder, Reefhuis, Caton, & Werler, 2009).

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