Intensity of Multigenerational Carcinogenesis from DES

Multigenerational effects of DES have been reported through the maternal lineage

We were told that it “could take over 50 years” to detect the effects of DES exposure in future generations, due to the length of time required for diseases to manifest. It is predicted that cross-generational responses to the exposure of DES are possible due to epigenetic changes in the DNA.

1997 Study Abstract

Mice exposed prenatally to diethylstilbestrol (DES-exposed mice) can transmit a carcinogenic influence to the next generation (DES-lineage mice) when mated to control mice.

The persistence of this effect was studied one generation further (DES-lineage-2 mice) by mating DES-lineage female mice to control males. The interaction of maternal dietary fat levels with DES was also tested by feeding high and low levels of dietary fat during the pregnancies that produced the final two generations.

DES-lineage-2 mice, exposed to low or high fat maternal diets, had significantly more tumors than control mice with corresponding dietary fat exposure. The frequency of tumors in DES-lineage-2 mice was not significantly lower than in DES-lineage mice from a previous experiment.

Thus, the multigenerational effect of DES is relatively intense in mice. If this type of carcinogenesis can occur in the human population, it poses a major threat to future generations.


  • Intensity of multigenerational carcinogenesis from diethylstilbestrol in mice, Carcinogenesis, NCBI PubMed, PMID: 9111216, 1997 Apr.
  • Featured image credit Alisa Olaivar.

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