JUST THE FACTS
DES AND CERVICAL CANCER
DES AND CERVICAL CANCER
Diethylstilbestrol (DES) expose does cause an increased risk in Cervical and Breast Cancer. JUST THE FACTS list highlighted Facts about DES from the National Cancer Institute, however, tables and more information is listed on the link below, so please click the link for more information.
Diethylstilbestrol (DES) is a synthetic form of the female hormone estrogen. It was prescribed to pregnant women between 1940 and 1971 to prevent miscarriage, premature labor, and related complications of pregnancy. The use of DES declined after studies in the 1950s showed that it was not effective in preventing these problems.
In 1971, researchers linked prenatal (before birth) DES exposure to a type of cancer of the cervix and vagina called clear cell adenocarcinoma in a small group of women. Soon after, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) notified physicians that DES should not be prescribed to pregnant women. (NOTE: They knew in the 1950's that this drug was not effective, but they did not notify physicians and stop prescribing it to pregnant women until 1971)
The daughters of women who used DES while pregnant—commonly called DES daughters—have about 40 X the risk of developing clear cell adenocarcinoma of the lower genital tract than unexposed women. Subsequent research has shown that the risk of developing this disease remains elevated as women age into their 40s.
DES daughters have an increased risk of developing abnormal cells in the cervix and the vagina that are precursors of cancer (dysplasia, cervical intraepithelial neoplasia, and squamous intraepithelial lesions). Scientists estimated that DES-exposed daughters were 2.2 X more likely to have these abnormal cell changes in the cervix than unexposed women.
Approximately 4% of DES daughters developed these conditions because of their exposure. It has been recommended that DES daughters have a yearly Pap test and pelvic exam to check for abnormal cells.
DES daughters may also have a slightly increased risk of Breast Cancer after age 40. DES daughters have approximately 2 X the risk of breast cancer as unexposed women of the same age and with similar risk factors. Women who used DES may have a slight increase in the risk of developing and dying from breast cancer compared with women who did not use DES.
Some studies suggest that the increased risk of INFERTILITY is mainly due to uterine or fallopian tube problems.
One study found a 40% increase in risk of depression
DES daughters have more than 2 X the risk of early menopause (menopause that begins before age 45) as unexposed women.
Some studies have found that men whose mothers used DES during pregnancy have an increased risk of testicular abnormalities, including undescended testicles or development of cysts in the epididymis. There is also some evidence of increased risks of inflammation or infection of the testicles.
Researchers are also studying possible health effects among women and men who are the children of DES daughters. These groups are called DES granddaughters and DES grandsons, or the third generation. Researchers are studying these groups because studies in animal models suggest that DES may cause DNA changes (i.e., altered patterns of methylation) in mice exposed to the chemical during early development. These changes can be heritable and have the potential to affect subsequent generations. Analysis showed that DES granddaughters began their menstrual periods later and were more likely to have menstrual irregularities than other women of the same age. The data also suggested that infertility was greater among DES granddaughters, and that they tended to have fewer live births. Recent studies have found that DES granddaughters and DES grandsons may have a slightly higher risk of cancer and birth defects, including hypospadias in DES grandsons.
It is estimated that 5 to 10 million Americans—pregnant women and the children born to them—were exposed to DES between 1940 and 1971.