Diethylstilboestrol (DES) is a synthetic form of oestrogen. It was prescribed between 1938 and 1971 to women to ensure healthy pregnancies and prevent miscarriages.
Use of DES declined in the 1960s after studies showed that it was not effective in preventing complications during pregnancy.
While most people exposed to DES will not experience negative health effects, it has been linked to:
The daughters of women who used DES while pregnant — often called ‘DES daughters’ — are at increased risk of some cancers, including clear cell adenocarcinoma, and have a slight increased risk of breast cancer. They may also be at higher risk of early menopause.
The sons of women who used DES while pregnant are also at increased risk of testicular problems such as undescended testes, testicular cysts, inflammation or infection.
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Last reviewed: August 2018