DES Daughters’ Cancer Risk

Cancer risk in women prenatally exposed to diethylstilbestrol, 2007

Study Abstract

Prenatal diethylstilbestrol (DES) exposure is associated with excess risks of clear cell adenocarcinoma (CCA), and breast cancer in older women. Whether overall cancer risk is also elevated is unclear.

Total and site-specific cancer risks were evaluated in the DES Combined Cohort Follow-up Study using age- and calendar-year specific standardized incidence rate ratios (SIR), and age-adjusted incidence rate ratios (RR) comparing DES exposed and unexposed women. A total of 143 and 49 cancer cases occurred in 97,831 and 34,810 person-years among the exposed and unexposed, respectively.

  • There was no overall excess risk among exposed women when compared with external rates (SIR 1.01; 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.86-1.2).
  • The overall RR comparing exposed with unexposed women was 1.32 (95% CI 0.94-1.8).
  • Breast cancer risk was elevated only among women over 40 years (RR 1.83; 95% CI 1.1-3.2).
  • The CCA SIR among exposed women was nearly 40, and the estimated attack rate through age 39 was 1.6/1,000 women. CCA incidence decreased by over 80% after age 25 when compared with 20-24 years.
  • Excluding CCA and breast cancer, the overall RR was 1.21 (95% CI 0.74-2.0).
  • DES was not associated with excess risks of either endometrial or ovarian cancer.

These data suggest that the DES associated increase in CCA incidence remains elevated through the reproductive years. There was no consistent evidence of risk excesses for cancers other than CCA, and breast cancer in older women.

Given that the population is still young, continued follow-up is necessary to assess the overall carcinogenic impact of prenatal DES exposure.


  • Cancer risk in women prenatally exposed to diethylstilbestrol, International journal of cancer, NCBI PubMed PMID: 17390375, 2007 Jul 15.

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