DES and Cancer: the Never Ending Story
41 years ago, a connection between DES exposure and cancer in DES daughters was established. Cases of Clear Cell Adenocarcinoma (CCA) of the vagina were diagnosed in an age group never before found to develop it. At the time the peak incidence of CCA in DES Daughters was in the late teens and early 20s. Most young women with CCA of the vagina have a history of prenatal exposure to diethylstilbestrol (DES). DES daughters were told by physicians that the risk was low when you reach your 30s and you can still read today on some websites that “if a DES daughter has not developed this cancer by age 30, she will not develop it”.
But today, DES daughters cancer fears are confirmed and justified as the findings and conclusions of a new report by CDC researchers suggest an elevated risk for this vaginal/cervical cancer in DES Daughters as they age.
- Find out more about this new report on CNN
- Download a copy of the Abstract: Higher incidence of clear cell adenocarcinoma of the cervix and vagina among women born between 1947 and 1971 in the United States ”
- Read more about DES and Cancer at cancer.gov
When researchers first linked prenatal DES exposure to vaginal / cervical cancer in a small group of women, soon after, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) notified physicians throughout the U.S.A. that DES should not be prescribed to pregnant women (note that it wasn’t banned!). In Europe, the drug continued to be prescribed to pregnant women until 1978. So even though this report says “elevated risk among women born between 1947 and 1971 in the United States”, it should read “among all women born between 1947 and 1978 in countries where DES was prescribed”. In the United States alone it is estimated that five to 10 million people were exposed to DES between 1938 and 1971.
When will this stop? The statement “The more I learn the less I know” really seems to apply to the DES tragedy. As we learn more about the devastating health effects of diethylstibestrol, we begin to become more aware of the limits of our knowledge regarding the long term effects not only for DES daughters but also DES sons and the DES 3rd generation (children of DES daughters and sons). DES truly is a never ending story!
Wherever you are stay safe and remind your GP that DES daughters need yearly Pap test and pelvic exam as well as regular health screening and adequate care!