New DES study pops an endocrine disrupter balloon

Diethylstilbesterol (DES), a drug formerly administered to millions of women staring in the 1940s to prevent miscarriage and premature delivery, gained notoriety in 1971 when it was linked to a rare form of vaginal cancer in exposed daughters.

In Our Stolen Future, the alarmist book about so-called "endocrine disrupters" causing everything from cancer to infertility to attention deficit disorder, author Theo Colburn wrote "Although DES-exposed mice have been reported to develop cancers in the breast, uterus, and ovaries, nothing is known about the incidence of these cancers in women exposed to DES before birth."

Now, something is known. And it's not good for Theo and her fearmongering friends.

A new study published in Journal of the American Medical Association (8/19/98) reports no association between in utero DES exposure and cancers in the breast, uterus or ovaries. The results are based on a 16-year cohort study of more than 3,600 DES-exposed daughters and 1,200 controls. Most of the women studied are younger than 50 years old, so research will continue. Still, this is yet another study that undercuts Theo and her endocrine disrupter scare.

For my light-hearted take on Theo and her wacky theories, read Our Swollen Future: Tonight on 60 Minuts.

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