Can anybody really predict a child’s final mature height?

A ‘too tall’ tale: girls and the drug DES

“The practice of using DES on tall girls had a long history. It was in the late 1940s that doctors at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston first discovered a way to alter height – a distinctive, heritable trait – in girls whose parents feared their daughters were growing too tall. In those days, hormone discoveries were heralding a new era in medicine, just as gene therapy is today. Hormones were the miracle that would allow doctors to manipulate how tall a girl grew and allay her mother’s fears.”

“So with the availability of the cheap, synthetic drug DES, and the discovery that large amounts of estrogen could push a girl into and through puberty quickly, allowing less time for her bones to grow long, the tall-girl problem appeared to have a solution. An inherited trait that used to be a given – tall stature – could now be fixed.”

“In the U.S., it is estimated that thousands of tall girls obediently swallowed massive amounts of DES – often 100 times the amount of estrogen delivered in a high-dose birth control pill – daily over a period of several years.”

Read A ‘too tall’ tale: girls and the drug DES, LA Times, April 5, 2009.

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