Adverse Health Outcomes in Women Exposed In Utero to Diethylstilbestrol (DES)

New England Journal of Medicine

Robert N. Hoover, M.D., Sc.D., Marianne Hyer, M.S., Ruth M. Pfeiffer, Ph.D., Ervin Adam, M.D., Brian Bond, M.D., Andrea L. Cheville, M.D., Theodore Colton, Sc.D., Patricia Hartge, Sc.D., Elizabeth E. Hatch, Ph.D., Arthur L. Herbst, M.D., Beth Y. Karlan, M.D., Raymond Kaufman, M.D., Kenneth L. Noller, M.D., Julie R. Palmer, Sc.D., Stanley J. Robboy, M.D., Robert C. Saal, M.S.W., William Strohsnitter, D.Sc., Linda Titus-Ernstoff, Ph.D., and Rebecca Troisi, Sc.D.

N Engl J Med 2011; 365:1304-1314October 6, 2011

Background

Before 1971, several million women were exposed in utero to diethylstilbestrol (DES) given to their mothers to prevent pregnancy complications. Several adverse outcomes have been linked to such exposure, but their cumulative effects are not well understood.

Methods

We combined data from three studies initiated in the 1970s with continued long-term follow-up of 4653 women exposed in utero to DES and 1927 unexposed controls. We assessed the risks of 12 adverse outcomes linked to DES exposure, including cumulative risks to 45 years of age for reproductive outcomes and to 55 years of age for other outcomes, and their relationships to the baseline presence or absence of vaginal epithelial changes, which are correlated with a higher dose of, and earlier exposure to, DES in utero.

Results

Cumulative risks in women exposed to DES, as compared with those not exposed, were as follows: for infertility, 33.3% vs. 15.5% (hazard ratio, 2.37; 95% confidence interval [CI], 2.05 to 2.75); spontaneous abortion, 50.3% vs. 38.6% (hazard ratio, 1.64; 95% CI, 1.42 to 1.88); preterm delivery, 53.3% vs. 17.8% (hazard ratio, 4.68; 95% CI, 3.74 to 5.86); loss of second-trimester pregnancy, 16.4% vs. 1.7% (hazard ratio, 3.77; 95% CI, 2.56 to 5.54); ectopic pregnancy, 14.6% vs. 2.9% (hazard ratio, 3.72; 95% CI, 2.58 to 5.38); preeclampsia, 26.4% vs. 13.7% (hazard ratio 1.42; 95% CI, 1.07 to 1.89); stillbirth, 8.9% vs. 2.6% (hazard ratio, 2.45; 95% CI, 1.33 to 4.54); early menopause, 5.1% vs. 1.7% (hazard ratio, 2.35; 95% CI, 1.67 to 3.31); grade 2 or higher cervical intraepithelial neoplasia, 6.9% vs. 3.4% (hazard ratio, 2.28; 95% CI, 1.59 to 3.27); and breast cancer at 40 years of age or older, 3.9% vs. 2.2% (hazard ratio, 1.82; 95% CI, 1.04 to 3.18). For most outcomes, the risks among exposed women were higher for those with vaginal epithelial changes than for those without such changes.

Conclusions

In utero exposure of women to DES is associated with a high lifetime risk of a broad spectrum of adverse health outcomes. (Funded by the National Cancer Institute.)

Supported by the Intramural Research Program of the Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics of the National Cancer Institute.

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Yet another medical experiment on women gone bad…

 

PG

Author: Leslie Carol Botha

Author, publisher, radio talk show host and internationally recognized expert on women's hormone cycles. Social/political activist on Gardasil the HPV vaccine for adolescent girls. Co-author of "Understanding Your Mood, Mind and Hormone Cycle." Honorary advisory board member for the Foundation for the Study of Cycles and member of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research.