Prenatal Diethylstilbestrol Exposure and Risk of Depression in Women and Men

Prenatal exposure to diethylstilbestrol (DES), an endocrine disrupting chemical, may be associated with depression in adulthood, but previous findings are inconsistent

2019 Study Abstract

Women (3,888 DES exposed, 1,729 unexposed) and men (1,021 DES exposed, 1,042 unexposed) participating in the National Cancer Institute (NCI) DES Combined Cohort Follow-up Study were queried in 2011 for any history of depression diagnosis or treatment. Hazard ratios (HR; 95% confidence intervals (CI)) estimated the associations between prenatal DES exposure and depression risk.

Depression was reported by 993 (26%) exposed and 405 (23%) unexposed women, and 177 (17%) exposed and 181 (17%) unexposed men. Compared with the unexposed, HRs for DES and depression were 1.1 (95% CI: 0.9, 1.2) in women and 1.0 (95% CI: 0.8, 1.2) in men. For medication-treated depression, the HRs (CIs) were 1.1 (0.9, 1.2) in women and 0.9 (0.7, 1.2) in men. In women, the HR (CI) for exposure to a low cumulative DES dose was 1.2 (1.0, 1.4), and for DES exposure before 8 weeks’ gestation was 1.2 (1.0-1.4). In men, the HR for low dose was 1.2 (95% CI 0.9,1.6) and there was no association with timing. In women, associations were uninfluenced by the presence of DES-related vaginal epithelial changes or a prior diagnosis of DES-related adverse outcomes.

Prenatal DES exposure was not associated overall with risk of depression in women or men. In women, exposure in early gestation or to a low cumulative dose may be weakly associated with an increased depression risk.



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