Effects of DES in a Third Generation

Exposure to Diethylstilbestrol during Sensitive Life Stages: A legacy of heritable health effects

2013 Selected Abstracts

Walker and Haven predicted that “if the high intensity of DES multigenerational carcinogenicity seen in mice is applicable to the human population, this is a health problem of major proportions.” They go on to say that it “could take over 50 years” to detect the effects in future generations, due to the length of time required for diseases such as cancer to manifest. It is predicted that cross-generational responses to DES exposure are possible due to epigenetic changes in the DNA and that the “germ cell pool could have become massively contaminated”. For example, early exposure to EDCs, like DES, is thought to reprogram mouse female reproductive tract development and affect how the reproductive tract responds to endogenous estrogens later in life. They suggest that “environmental estrogens may be more potent than previously suspected, due to synergistic action from concurrent exposures.”

The studies on the cohort of men (grandsons) and women (granddaughters) whose mothers were exposed prenatally to DES (grandchildren had no direct exposure) are limited as they are just beginning to reach the age when relevant health problems can be studied. Studies that have been performed contain preliminary data, as the power is low. Therefore, the main sources of information for third generation effects are rodent studies. In general, multi-generational mouse studies have shown an increased susceptibility to tumor formation in the third generation which suggests that DES grandchildren are also at an increased risk for cancer.


Currently there are no human studies that definitively show any adverse effects of DES for the third generation of females. A small cohort study of 28 DES granddaughters found no abnormalities in the lower genital tract and no cases of CCA. These results led authors to conclude that third generation effects were unlikely even after they acknowledged that the number of participants was too small and the women were too young for the findings to have any real significance.

Multigenerational rodent studies, as a primary source for information on the effects of DES exposure, disagree with those preliminary findings in humans. Although severe effects of DES were apparent in the first round of CD-1 mouse offspring (second generation), the third generation did not exhibit the same subfertility, regardless of exposure timing or dose. However, these studies have found an increased susceptibility to tumor formation in the third generation. Aged third generation female mice had increased risks for uterine cancers, benign ovarian tumors, and lymphomas. One study found cervical adenocarcinomas, which are not generally seen in untreated mice, in third generation females similar to those induced by direct prenatal DES exposure. In the same study, third generation female mice had increases in ovarian, uterine, and mammary tumors with the total number of reproductive tumors being statistically significant from the control mice.


The early reports of DES grandsons show an increase in hypospadias in this population. Hypospadias occurred twenty times more frequently in the DES grandsons’ cohort, which suggests that their mothers (DES daughters) may have had a disturbed hormonal balance during their reproductive life that interfered with the genital development of the male fetus. The prevalence of hypospadias was found to be >3% in DES grandsons but the risk of the defect is still low. Mouse studies in the third generation DES-exposed male population have found an increased susceptibility for reproductive tumor formation, specifically in the testes, prostate, and seminal vesicles. No effect on reproductive capacity or other deformities was seen in DES grandsons.


  • Full study (free access) : Exposure to Diethylstilbestrol during Sensitive Life Stages: A legacy of heritable health effects, Birth defects research. Part C, Embryo today : reviews, NCBI PubMed PMC3817964, 2013 Nov 5.
  • Featured image credit Oskars Sylwan.

12 Replies to “Effects of DES in a Third Generation”

  1. EXUSE ME, my grandmother overdosed on DES, for fear of losing my mother. She obviously was unexpected after the recent birth of my aunt. They’re only 13 months apart. As my mother’s daughter, who was supposed to be sterile, I arrived nonetheless. My neuromuscular system is fried, along with my endocrine system. I’m sick as hell, and pray I don’t see 50. Piss off this isn’t because of that drug. And, two children my grandmother had after this debacle, AREN’T THIS SICK.

  2. My grandmother was prescribed this drug as well too have my mom. Both my sister and I were both with no uterus!! We both have multiple autoimmune illnesses and cardiovascular issues going on. I’m only 40… It’s disgusting what this drug has done to our lives. My mom had a weak uterus and brace placed inside for us and we were both born 4 years apart without a uterus and reproductive issues. My mom isn’t even as sick as us.

    1. Thank you very much for sharing your moving testimonial, with our audience, Jodi

      Today, many doctors do not know about DES or think that it is a drug of the past…
      Unfortunately (as you explain) it’s not the case, far from that.

      Best wishes,

  3. Could you please tell me who to contact that may still be doing research on DES daughters and Grandaughters? Thank You

  4. I was given high doses of Stilbestrol from the age of 11 – 15 years to inhibit my height. I have had two different gynecological cancers which I feel are directly related.

    I would be extremely interested to hear from any other ‘tall stature girls’ treated with high dose stilbestrol, particularly with regard to any adverse outcomes of their children – infertility/gyny issues/cancers etc.

    1. Thank you Claire for sharing your tragic story.

      The research I found – and republished – in ref to DES given to healthy teenage girls to manipulate height are listed by date on the webpage “DIETHYLSTILBESTROL DES AND BONES STUDIES“, and here is the tag: /tall-girls/.

      I’m not sure but some people might have left comments to some of those posts/studies. Have a look, and feel free to copy and paste yours again if you wish, it will be published.
      Best wishes,

  5. I just found out than I’m a DES granddaughter. I have a bicornate uterus, this is probably why.

  6. I’ve always known I was a granddaughter of DES. My mom was the 3rd reported case in the US to be diagnosed with the ovarian cancer it causes. I had a huge tumor, right ovary and my appendix all removed at 17, DES caused the tumor. My breasts are full of tumors, I was told because of DES. I went into menopause at 24, my sister was 32 when she went into menopause. She was unable to have kids because her uterus was too small, due to DES. My daughter so she’s a great granddaughter was born with only 1 ovary, and had to use a fertility doctor to have babies. She’s 32 and her doctor thinks she’s going into menopause. She has a lot of health issues. So, mommas and daddies need to know it doesn’t stop at us. They screwed a lot of generations to come in my opinion.

    Best of luck to everyone!!

    1. Thank you so much for sharing your testimonial with our readers, Lisa.
      You might be the very first to mention a 4th generation DES baby!!!
      Many thanks again and best wishes,

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