Skip to main content

Health: Diethylstilbestrol

Volume 699: debated on Wednesday 20 February 2008

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What assessment has been made of women who have been exposed to diethylstilbestrol; and [HL1795]

What assessment has been made of children of mothers who received diethylstilbestrol while pregnant; and [HL1796]

What is their assessment of the long-term side effects on women who received diethylstilbestrol while pregnant. [HL1798]

Diethylstilbestrol (DES) is an oestrogenic hormone formerly used in the treatment of threatened miscarriage.

In the United Kingdom in 1978 the Medical Research Council commissioned a study that assessed women who were known to have been exposed to DES and their offspring for significant health outcomes.

There is little good evidence of harm for women who received DES while pregnant. Some studies have found there to be a possible small increase in the risk of breast cancer but this has not been confirmed in other studies.

In 1971 an assessment of women in the United States of America with clear-cell adenocarcinoma of the vagina/cervix led to the first association between the development of this condition and prenatal exposure to DES. This large epidemiological study is still ongoing and is examining various health outcomes in women who were exposed during pregnancy, in their children who were exposed in the uterus, and in their children's children.