DES health risks and precautions, from Harvard Women's Health Watch

Published: May, 2010

The story of diethylstilbestrol (DES) is a cautionary tale. This synthetic estrogen was prescribed from the 1940s through the 1960s to help pregnant women avoid miscarriage and premature delivery. Not only did it fail to work, but it also created health problems for at least two generations. The lingering effects of DES mean that those exposed to the medication still need to take precautions, reports the May 2010 issue of Harvard Women's Health Watch.

In 1971, the FDA warned doctors to stop prescribing DES after it was linked to a rare cancer of the vagina and cervix in the daughters of women who took the drug while pregnant. Many studies since then have confirmed links between DES exposure and various health risks. Since 1992, with the DES Follow-up Study, the National Cancer Institute has been monitoring women who took DES and their daughters and sons who were exposed to it in the womb.

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