How DES prescribed during gestation can alter foetal sex differentiation in men

Environmental xenoestrogens, antiandrogens and disorders of male sexual differentiation

2001 Study Abstract

The effects of diethylstilbestrol (DES) provide an unfortunate model of how a potent estrogenic chemical prescribed during gestation can alter foetal sex differentiation in human. The occurrence of genital abnormalities in the sons of women exposed to DES during pregnancy is noteworthy:

  • 20.8% of the males exposed to DES in utero had epididymal cysts (vs 4.9% in controls),
  • 4.4% had hypospadias (vs 1.1% in controls),
  • 11.4% presented with cryptorchidism and hypoplastic testes (vs 2.1% in controls),
  • and 1.5% had micropenis (vs 0% in controls).

This set of data emphasizes the sensitivity of foetal external genitalia to excess synthetic estrogen exposure.

The adverse effects of DES have been extensively studied in experimental animals. After DES exposure in pregnant mice, male offspring exhibited micropenis, hypospadias, and cryptorchidism along with underdevelopment of the vas deferens, epididymis, and seminal vesicles.

These defects are similar to those of DES-exposed human male foetus.



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