Diethylstilbestrol (DES)

Diethylstilbestrol (DES)

This drug is a synthetic hormone that was found to be in an alternative treatment for prostate cancer manufactured in China called PC-SPES. This drug was not supposed to be in the formula (along with two other manufactured drugs found in the formula). The DES can cause blood clots. Some doctors think the DES was the element of PC-SPES that made it work so well on advanced prostate cancer patients. One of the other manufactured drugs found in PC-SPES was a blood thinner. While PC-SPES has been removed from the market (I do not know if it is back on the market), doctors are now looking at DES as a treatment for advanced prostate cancer.

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Theodore Cotton, ScD; E. R. Greenberg, MD; K. Noller, MD; L. Ressegui, PhD; C. Van Bennekom, MPH; T. Heeren, PhD; Y. Zhang, MPH, Journal of the American Medical Association, Vol. 269, No. 16

The use of DES (diethylstilbestrol) over a thirty-year period in the United States and even longer than that in some European countries is still affecting women. The drug, a powerful synthetic estrogen, was prescribed to three to six million American women between 1941 and 1971 in the mistaken belief that it would prevent miscarriage. It was manufactured and sold under more than 200 brand names and aggressively marketed, even though it was untested for use during pregnancy.

The link to clear-cell adenocarcinoma, a rare form of vaginal cancer in DES was established in 197l, ending the heyday of the drug's use in the United States. DES had other effects upon the reproductive systems of the developing fetuses. too: among them an increased risk of breast cancer.

This article is based upon a follow-up study designed to further assess the long-term risk of breast cancer in women who took DES in pregnancy. The first study on the association of DES and increased risk of breast cancer carried out by two of its authors, Greenberg and Ressegule, was published in 1984 in the New England Journal of Medicine ( 1984;311:1393-1398). They observed a moderate increase in breast cancer incidence in DES-exposed women in the study group of 3000 women and found data that further suggested that the risk associated with DES became greater over time.

The current study covers nearly 8 years since the time of the first one and was designed to shed more light on whether DES-exposed women face more risk of breast cancer as time passed since they took the drug. Questionnaires were received for 5494 (90.7 percent) of the total group of women surveyed. Of these, 341 women were reported to have had breast cancer: 194 of them were DES-exposed, and 147 were not. There were 52 deaths due to breast cancer in the. DES-exposed group and 40 in the unexposed group.

The new analyses continued the previous finding of a "modest but statistically significant increase in breast cancer risk associated with exposure to DES during pregnancy." The results of this study did not support an earlier indication that breast cancer risk associated with DES exposure might become a major concern thirty or more years after the exposed pregnancy.
Article copyright Ina May Gaskin.

Were You Exposed to DES?

If it weren't for a TV show, Drew Rosen may never have learned that her mother had taken DES (diethylstillbestrol). When the Lou Grant show featured the dangers of this synthetic estrogen--given to pregnant women between 1938 and 1971 to prevent miscarriage and premature birth--it sparked her mom's memory. "I think I took DES," she told Rosen, then 32 and pregnant for the first time. When the pregnancy ended in miscarriage, the tests confirmed that DES was the culprit.
Up to 10 million Americans were exposed to DES; many don't even know it. The drug can cause infertility, reproductive-system abnormalities pregnancy complications, and cervical cancer in DES daughters and a rare breast cancer in their mothers.

Assess your risk with an online test from the CDC. (Find DES Update at, or in the US, call toll-free 888-246-2675.) Why you need to know:. "It could help your doctor decide how often you need cancer screenings," says Marsha Vanderford, PhD, of the CDC. And for DES daughters in their 30s, it could mean treating pregnancies with extra caution.

PHOTO (COLOR): Among 8,000 Italians, weekly pizza eaters sliced their risk for digestive cancers by up to 59%. Mangia these cancer fighters: lycopene-packed tomatoes and monounsaturated fats in the olive oil.
By Toby Hanlon