Miscarriage Drug Still a Threat to Women

Although the federal government in 1971 banned the miscarriage drug DES, its effects can still be found in women who took the drug, their children, and their grandchildren. Scientists are hoping to develop an educational initiative for grown children of women who took DES, which was found to cause certain types of cervical and vaginal cancer.

Wanda Jones, deputy assistant secretary of health at the Department of Health and Human Services, said, “Although DES is no longer used to prevent miscarriages, concerns about the effects of DES persist.”

DES, or diethylstillbestol, was a form of estrogen given to more than 4.8 million women in the U.S. between the mid-1940s and 1971. Unfortunately, research has shown that not only did the drug did not prevent miscarriages, but that the daughters and granddaughters of women who took it are at risk for cancer.

Arthur Herbst, a gynecologist who identified the DES-cancer link, noted that “most cancer cases occurred in young women between the ages of 15-24,” but that “CAA [clear-cell adenocarconoma] of the cervix tends to be common in non-DES patients in their 40s, 50s, and 60s.”

In addition, because women are born with their supply of eggs in place, researchers have found that it is possible that her grandchildren could be affected if her eggs were damaged.

Currently, there is a debate of whether or not federal money should be spent on DES and its effects. Last year, Congress allocated funds for DES Programs under “Women’s Health Research and Prevention Amendments.” Representative Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., who is fighting for a nationwide education program stated, “We must not be lulled into thinking our work with policymakers is now done.”


Nando Times and AP - July 19, 1999

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