HealthDay News — The estimated prevalence of fetal alcohol syndrome varies from 1.1 to 5.0% among first graders in 4 U.S. communities, according to a study published in the February 6 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Phillip A. May, Ph.D., from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and colleagues estimated the prevalence of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders in 4 regions of the United States (the Rocky Mountain, Midwestern, Southeastern, and Pacific Southwestern regions). First-grade children and their parents or guardians were enrolled; children were assessed in the 4 domains that contribute to fetal alcohol spectrum disorder continuum: dysmorphic features, physical growth, neurobehavioral development, and prenatal alcohol exposure. Data were included for 6,639 children who were selected for participation from a population of 13,146 first-graders. 

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The researchers found that there were 222 cases of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders. For fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, the conservative prevalence estimates varied from 11.3 to 50.0 per 1,000 children; the weighted prevalence estimates varied from 31.1 to 98.5 per 1,000 children.

“Estimated prevalence of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders among first-graders in four U.S. communities ranged from 1.1 percent to 5.0% using a conservative approach,” the authors write. “These findings may represent more accurate U.S. prevalence estimates than previous studies but may not be generalizable to all communities.”

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