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Am J Epidemiol. 2007 May 1;165(9):1015-22. Epub 2007 Jan 31.

In utero exposure to the antiandrogen 1,1-dichloro-2,2-bis(p-chlorophenyl)ethylene (DDE) in relation to anogenital distance in male newborns from Chiapas, México.

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  • 1Epidemiology Branch, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, National Institutes of Health, US Department of Health and Human Services, Research Triangle Park, NC 27709, USA.


The insecticide 1,1,1-trichloro-2,2-bis(p-chlorophenyl)ethane (DDT) is still used for disease control in some areas, resulting in high levels of human exposure. The main degradation product of DDT is 1,1-dichloro-2,2-bis(p-chlorophenyl)ethylene (DDE), an antiandrogen. In animal experiments, in utero exposure to DDE decreases anogenital distance in male offspring. In these models, anogenital distance serves as a measure of fetal androgen action. The authors designed the present study to examine the hypothesis that in utero exposure to DDE decreases anogenital distance in newborn human males. A cross-sectional study of 781 newly delivered male infants was conducted in 2002-2003 in Chiapas, México, where DDT had recently been used for malaria control. Measurements of anogenital distance and penile dimensions were taken, and a sample of the mother's blood was drawn. In this population, the range of serum DDE levels was large (0.8-398 microg/liter). The authors, using two-sided tests, found no evidence that exposure in utero to DDE was related to reduced androgen action as reflected by anogenital distance or penile dimensions at birth. If DDE has important antiandrogenic action in humans, it may be manifest only at higher levels of exposure or via effects on other outcomes.

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