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Risk of birth defect doubles for cousin couples: Study

Published on Jul 4, 2013 7:10 AM

LONDON (REUTERS) - Children whose parents are cousins run more than double the risk of being born with a congenital abnormality, although the overall rate of such birth defects remains low, according to new research findings.

A large study in a British city with a large Pakistani community, where marriage between blood relatives is fairly common, found that so-called consanguineous parents accounted for more than 30 per cent of birth defects in babies of Pakistani origin.

Researchers said the findings were important evidence for use in educating populations that accept and sanction cousin marriages - including Amish, Kurdish, Romany and other relatively closed communities - about the potential risks for children's health.

Birth defects, also known as congenital abnormalities, can range from relatively minor problems such as extra fingers or toes through to more life-threatening problems such as holes in the heart or brain development disorders.

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