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Intrauterine exposure to diethylstilbestrol: Long‐term effects in humans

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DES is the most carefully scrutinized EDC and its history provides valuable insights into the current evaluation of less well‐studied EDCs. This review summarizes the health effects of prenatal exposure to diethylstilbestrol (DES) and emphasizes the role of DES as the first endocrine disrupting chemical (EDC). Vaginal clear cell adenocarcinoma (CCAC), the most severe consequence of prenatal exposure to DES, affected only 0.1% of exposed females, while the far more prevalent teratogenic and reproductive effects of DES were only discovered when DES daughter were screened for CCAC. Initial studies, conducted before most DES daughters had tried to conceive, examined vaginal cancer and vaginal, cervical and uterine abnormalities. Subsequently, several controlled studies demonstrated the increased risk of adverse reproductive outcomes in DES daughters. While most DES daughters can eventually experience a live birth, this is less likely in women with genital tract abnormalities, in whom there is a two‐thirds chance that each pregnancy will be unsuccessful. In DES sons, who have been far less studied, results suggest male reproductive toxicity, but are less consistent. The importance of dose and gestational age at initial exposure are discussed, and the implications of DES findings for the evaluation of risks from current EDCs emphasized.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Family and Community Medicine, University of Missouri, Columbia MO 65212, USA

Publication date: 2001-07-01

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