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Curr Womens Health Rep. 2002 Oct;2(5):390-3.

DES exposure and the aging woman: mothers and daughters.

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  • 1Department of Surgery, University of Wisconsin Medical School, H4/710 Clinical Science Center, 600 Highland Avenue, Madison, WI 53792, USA.


Diethylstilbestrol (DES), the first orally active artificial estrogen ever developed, was prescribed to several million pregnant women during the 1940s through the 1960s in the mistaken belief that it reduced the risk of miscarriage. In 1971, the US Food and Drug Administration contraindicated its use in pregnancy when DES was associated with the development of vaginal clear cell adenocarcinoma (CCA) in daughters exposed in utero. In daughters whose mothers took DES during pregnancy, the drug has been associated with congenital malformations of the reproductive tract, fertility problems, a possible increased risk of cervical carcinoma in situ, and a presumed lifetime risk of vaginal and cervical CCA. DES mothers have an increased risk of breast cancer (RR = 1.3). DES sons have an increased prevalence of urogenital anomalies, and a possible increased risk of testicular cancer.

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