From 1940 through the 1960s, diethylstilbestrol (DES), a synthetic oestrogen, was given to pregnant women to prevent pregnancy complications and losses. Subsequent studies showed increased risks of reproductive tract abnormalities, particularly vaginal adenocarcinoma, in exposed daughters. An increased risk of breast cancer in the DES-exposed mothers was also found in some studies. In this report, we present further follow-up and a combined analysis of two cohorts of women who were exposed to DES during pregnancy. The purpose of our study was to evaluate maternal DES exposure in relation to risk of cancer, particularly tumours with a hormonal aetiology. DES exposure status was determined by a review of medical records of the Mothers Study cohort or clinical trial records of the Dieckmann Study. Poisson regression analyses were used to estimate relative risks (RR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI) for the relationship between DES and cancer occurrence. The study results demonstrated a modest association between DES exposure and breast cancer risk, RR = 1.27 (95% CI = 1.07-1.52). The increased risk was not exacerbated by a family history of breast cancer, or by use of oral contraceptives or hormone replacement therapy. We found no evidence that DES was associated with risk of ovarian, endometrial or other cancer.
Copyright 2001 Cancer Research Campaign.