Epidemiology of cleft palate in Europe: implications for genetic research

Cleft Palate Craniofac J. 2004 May;41(3):244-9. doi: 10.1597/02-074.1.


Objective: To describe the epidemiology of cleft palate (CP) in Europe.

Design and setting: A descriptive epidemiological study on 3852 cases of CP, identified (1980 through 1996) from more than 6 million births from the EUROCAT network of 30 registers in 16 European countries.

Results: Significant differences in prevalence in Europe between registries and within countries were observed. A total of 2112 (54.8%) CP cases occurred as isolated, 694 (18.0%) were associated with other defects such as multiple congenital anomalies, and 1046 (27.2%) were in recognized conditions. The study confirmed the tendency toward female prevalence (sex ratio [SR] = 0.83), particularly among isolated cases (SR = 0.78) even if SR inversion is reported in some registries. A specific association with neural tube defects (NTDs) in some registers is reported.

Conclusion: The differences identified in Europe (prevalence, sex, associated anomalies) can be only partially explained by methodological reasons because a common methodology was shared among all registries for case ascertainment and collection, and CP is an easy detectable condition with few induced abortions. The complex model of inheritance and the frequently conflicting results in different populations on the role of genes that constitute risk factors suggest the presence of real biological differences. The association of CP/NTD in an area with a high prevalence of NTDs can identify a group of conditions that can be considered etiologically homogeneous. The epidemiological evaluation can guide genetic research to specify the role of etiological factors in each different population

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Abnormalities, Multiple / epidemiology
  • Cleft Palate / epidemiology*
  • Cleft Palate / genetics*
  • Europe / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Models, Genetic
  • Neural Tube Defects / epidemiology
  • Prevalence
  • Registries
  • Sex Ratio
  • Teratogens


  • Teratogens