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Breast cancer following diethylstilbestrol exposure in utero: insights from a tragedy


Diethylstilbestrol (DES), a powerful synthetic estrogen introduced in 1938, was prescribed to prevent pregnancy complications, but was later shown to have a series of adverse side-effects in the offspring, including cancer of the vagina. Recent evidence indicates that in utero exposure to DES is also linked to breast cancer in women over the age of 40 years. This evidence provides support to the hypothesis that in utero exposures may affect breast cancer risk in adult life.

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This work was supported by Karolinska Institutet, Distinguished Professor Award (grant number Dnr: 2368/10-221).

Conflict of interest

Dr. Adami has been retained as a consultant in litigation on behalf of DES daughters claiming breast cancer injury due to DES exposure.

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Correspondence to Pagona Lagiou.

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Adami, HO., Lagiou, P. & Trichopoulos, D. Breast cancer following diethylstilbestrol exposure in utero: insights from a tragedy. Eur J Epidemiol 27, 1–3 (2012).

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  • Diethylstilbestrol
  • DES
  • Estrogens
  • In utero
  • Breast cancer