Diethylstilbestrol (DES) is a potent estrogen mimic that was predominantly used from the 1940s to 1970s in hopes of preventing miscarriage in pregnant women. Decades later, DES is known to enhance breast cancer risk in exposed women, and cause a variety of birth related adverse outcomes in their daughters such as spontaneous abortion, second trimester pregnancy loss, preterm delivery, stillbirth, and neonatal death. Additionally, children exposed to DES in utero suffer from sub/infertility and cancer of reproductive tissues. DES is a pinnacle compound which demonstrates the fetal basis of adult disease. The mechanisms of cancer and endocrine disruption induced by DES are not fully understood. Future studies should focus on common target tissue pathways affected and the health of the DES grandchildren.
The legacy of the adverse effects that stem from DES administration to pregnant women in the 1950s to 1970s has not completely formed. The male and female offspring of those women have reported significant fertility, cancer, and birth-related outcomes, but the cancer outcomes are not completely understood, with few exceptions (CCA and breast cancer in women over 40 yr old). Information on DES mothers and daughters, in addition to substantial animal data, earned DES a place in the First Annual Report on Carcinogens, a critical review of carcinogenic compounds produced by the National Toxicology Program, in 1980 and was noted by the International Agency for Research on Cancer in their Monographs (IARC 1974). As the male and female offspring of those women age, the overall effect of DES on reproductive cancers will be better understood. Even more important to understand is the potential effect of this endocrine disruptor and carcinogen on the 3rd generation offspring who were not directly exposed, but may be affected in a heritable way through estrogen reprogramming and DNA modification. Further research is needed to indicate the mechanisms of action on the target tissues, so that future pharmaceuticals/environmental estrogen mimics will avoid these pathways, leading to healthier future generations.
Sources and full study
- Exposure to diethylstilbestrol during sensitive life stages: a legacy of heritable health effects, NCBI PMID: 23897597, Birth Defects Res C Embryo Today.;99(2):134-46. doi: 10.1002/bdrc.21035, 2013 Jun.
- Full text: PMCID: PMC3817964, NIHMSID: NIHMS520381, doi: 10.1002/bdrc.21035, Nov 5, 2013.
- DES EXPOSURE MAGNITUDE
- HEALTH EFFECTS
- Effects in DES Mothers
- Effects in DES Daughters
- Effects in DES Sons
- EFFECTS OF DES IN A 3rd GENERATION
- GENE CHANGES AND PROPOSED MECHANISMS OF ACTION
More DES DiEthylStilbestrol Resources
- DES studies on cancers and screening.
- DES studies on epigenetics and transgenerational effects.
- DES studies on fertility and pregnancy.
- DES studies on gender identity and psychological health.
- DES studies on in-utero exposure to DES and side-effects.
- DES studies on the genital tract.
- Papers on DES lawsuits.
- DES videos and posts tagged DES, the DES-exposed, DES victims.