DES Daughters: Research Trends 1970s to 2023

May 2023 Update


Since the publication in 1971 by Dr. Arthur Herbst documenting vaginal cancer among women exposed prenatally to the drug diethylstilbestrol (DES) (see Herbst, “Adenocarcimona of the Vagina: Association of Maternal Stilbestrol Therapy with Tumor Appearance in Young Women (1971), published in the New England Journal of Medicine), an extensive body of investigative research has been published revealing the widening scope of reported adverse health effects for DES daughters (i.e. women exposed prenatally to DES).

An estimated 5 to 10 million women (mothers and daughters) in the U.S. were exposed to DES between the 1940s and early 1970s. This site documents links to published research emphasizing DES Daughters that was published between 1990 and 2023, with references to historical literature published as early as the 1940s.

Major topics addressed in these journals include:

  • Cancers, especially risk of clear cell adenocarcinoma of the vagina and cervix, squamous cell neoplasia of the genital tract, breast cancer
  • Endometriosis and infertility
  • Structural changes of the genital tract including T-shaped uterus with a small cavity, T-shaped uterus with a constriction ring, and constriction rings alone; abnormalities of the uterine corpus and fallopian tube; cervical ectropion
  • Cardiovascular effects, including coronary artery disease (CAD) and myocardial infarction
  • Pancreatic disorders and pancreatitis
  • Early natural menopause
  • Reproductive tract abnormalities, including menstrual irregularities and urinary tract irregularities
  • Autoimmune disease
  • Poor pregnancy outcomes
  • Mental health effects, especially depression and neurobehavioral effects
  • Psychosexual/gender identity outcomes
  • Other reported adverse effects that may have been noted in individual medical case studies of DES Daughters

    A summary of the most commonly reported adverse health effects in DES Daughters is available from DES Action USA.

    >> How to Review Research Publications Included on this Page <<

    * Keep in mind that this is a comprehensive directory of published research with each individual article listed by title, year of publication, name of journal, and indication of whether the article is available as an abstract (summary only) or full-text version

    * Journal articles published most recently (i.e. 2010 or later) tend to have the most comprehensive overview of long-term trends in research findings, but may not always contain complete summaries of every major condition experienced by DES Daughters. When examining an issue, it is wise to review earlier published research to get a full picture of the epidemiological trends.

    * Take your time in reviewing these references! There is a huge amount of information included, and it is easy to become totally overwhelmed when you begin to read this material. When possible, it is worthwhile to focus on articles that serve as “systematic reviews”, as they function as comprehensive overviews of the history of published research on a particular topic.

    * Recommendation: For help on the best ways to review a journal article, I encourage you to read “How to Read and Understand a Scientific Paper: A Guide for Non-Scientists“, by Jennifer Raff.

    Journal References 1988-2023*

    [* Note regarding the timeline of research publications: Initial research about the human health effects of exposure to diethylstilbestrol began as early as the 1950s and significantly evolved during the 1970s and 1980s. Most publications from the 1990s and forward cite the studies from those early years where considered relevant.]

    A comprehensive guide to the full directory of DES-related publications on all topics is available at Diethylstilbestrol (DES): Multigenerational Research Trends 1939-2023.

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