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Birth Defects Res C Embryo Today. 2013 Jun;99(2):134-46. doi: 10.1002/bdrc.21035.

Exposure to diethylstilbestrol during sensitive life stages: a legacy of heritable health effects.

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  • 1Department of Health and Human Services, Division of the NTP, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, National Toxicology Program (NTP) Laboratories Branch, National Institutes of Health, Research Triangle Park, NC, USA.


Diethylstilbestrol (DES) is a potent estrogen mimic that was predominantly used from the 1940s to the 1970s by pregnant women in hopes of preventing miscarriage. 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 that 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.

Copyright © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.


DES; breast; cancer; development; diethylstilbestrol; fetal basis of adult disease; pregnancy

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