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DES (Diethylstibestrol) Information

From the GYN Genetics Articles List

What does it mean to be a DES daughter and why should I be concerned?What does it mean to be a DES daughter and why should I be concerned?


DES stands for diethylstibestrol. It is the first man-made, or synthetic, type of estrogen. At one time, low estrogen was believed to have contributed to pregnancy issues such as miscarriage. Thus, from about 1938 to 1971, women with a history of miscarriage or pre-term labor were given DES to prevent pregnancy complications. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates between five to ten million women in the United States were given DES during that time period.

The FDA advised physicians to stop prescribing DES to pregnant women in 1971. By then, some studies indicated that DES was not effective for preventing miscarriage. Additionally, a study was published that indicated females who had been exposed to DES in the womb were being diagnosed with a rare form of vaginal cancer, clear cell adenocarcinoma (CCA). Not only was this type of cancer rare, these women were also being diagnosed decades younger than most women with this form of cancer. As time went on, other health problems for those exposed to DES in-vitro have been identified, including a greater risk for breast cancer, reproductive tract deformities, and infertility. Health issues related to DES exposure can affect both men and women, but there is a wider variety of risks for females.

In the 1970s, a national effort began to try to identify persons who were exposed to DES in the womb, but not all of them have been identified. For one, DES was manufactured and sold by several companies under multiple names, so not all women realize they used DES during pregnancy. Additionally, there is no test to identify if one has been exposed.

Though many of the health issues may arise during a woman’s teens or early twenties, health risks will exist during her entire life. Thus, women who know they have been exposed to DES should work diligently with their medical team to faithfully monitor their health. All medical files should include information indicating there has been DES exposure, and all medical providers need to be aware of the exposure. DES Action USA has compiled a National Physician Referral List which can be used to find medical professionals with experience working with women exposed to DES.


This content was written by staff of HysterSisters.com by non-medical professionals based on discussions, resources and input from other patients for the purpose of patient-to-patient support.

09-12-2013 - 12:30 PM


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