In the United States, an estimated 5-10 million
persons were exposed to DES during 1938-1971, including women who
were prescribed DES while pregnant and the female and male children
born of these pregnancies. In 1971, the Food and Drug Administration
(FDA) issued a Drug Bulletin advising physicians to stop prescribing
DES to pregnant women because it was linked to a rare vaginal cancer
in female offspring.
| More than 30 years of research have
confirmed that health risks are associated with DES exposure. However,
not all exposed persons will experience the following DES-related
- Women prescribed DES while pregnant are at a modestly increased
risk for breast cancer.
- Women exposed to DES before birth (in the womb), known as DES
Daughters, are at an increased risk for clear cell adenocarcinoma
(CCA) of the vagina and cervix, reproductive tract structural
differences, pregnancy complications, and infertility. Although
DES Daughters appear to be at highest risk for clear cell cancer
in their teens and early 20s, cases have been reported in DES
Daughters in their 30s and 40s (Hatch, 1998).
- Men exposed to DES before birth (in the womb), known as DES
Sons, are at an increased risk for non-cancerous epididymal cysts.
Researchers are still following the health of persons exposed to
DES to determine whether other health problems occur as they grow
Whether you know for sure or suspect you were exposed to DES, you
can use CDC's DES Update to learn more about what DES exposure means
and what you can do about DES. This section of CDC's DES Update
includes the following information.
- DES History
- Known Health Effects – In-depth
information about the health effects found in women prescribed
DES while pregnant, DES Daughters, and DES Sons.
- Related Concerns – A discussion
of potential, but unconfirmed, health risks and other related
- CDC's DES Update – An overview
of CDC's DES health education program, including a timeline of
the history of DES and a list of partner organizations.
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