Minor malformations characteristic of the retinoic acid embryopathy and other birth outcomes in children of women exposed to topical tretinoin during early pregnancy

Kirsten D Loureiro, Kelly K Kao, Kenneth Lyons Jones, Sonia Alvarado, Carmen Chavez, Lyn Dick, Robert Felix, Diana Johnson, Christina D Chambers
American Journal of Medical Genetics. Part A 2005 July 15, 136 (2): 117-21
Topical tretinoin (Retin-A) is used to treat acne and photodamaged skin. Its teratogenic potential is of concern due to its similarity to isotretinoin (Accutane), a recognized human teratogen. Through the California Teratogen Information Service and Clinical Research Program, between 1983 and 2003, 106 pregnant women with first-trimester exposure to topical tretinoin were prospectively ascertained and followed. Birth outcomes, including pregnancy loss, major structural defects, and pre- and postnatal growth were compared to 389 similarly and prospectively ascertained women with no topical tretinoin exposure during pregnancy. Because a distinct pattern of malformation had already been described for isotretinoin, we also compared exposed (n = 62) and unexposed (n = 191) infants on the prevalence of a specific subset of minor malformations selected to represent the spectrum of defects comprising the retinoic acid embyopathy. There were no significant differences between groups in the proportion of pregnancies ending in spontaneous abortion (6.6% in exposed vs. 8.5% in unexposed; P = 0.53), or infants with major structural defects (2.2% in exposed vs. 1.2% in unexposed; P = 0.62). In addition, the groups were similar in birth weight, length and head circumference, and there were no significant differences between groups in length of gestation. Furthermore, the prevalence of one or more retinoic acid-specific minor malformations did not differ significantly between groups (12.9% in exposed vs. 9.9% in unexposed; P = 0.51). First-trimester topical tretinoin exposure in this study was not associated with an increased risk of any adverse pregnancy outcome evaluated. Specifically, there was no indication that topical tretinoin is associated with an increased risk for minor malformations that are consistent with the retinoic acid embryopathy. Although it is impossible to exclude the possibility that some women/infants may be uniquely susceptible to topical tretinoin exposure, this study provides further reassurance for women who are inadvertently exposed early in pregnancy.

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