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Daughters face DES drug cancer risk

Aug 7, 2006 |

The daughters of women who took the common pregnancy drug DES (diethylstilboestrol) face an increased risk of developing breast cancer, researchers in the United States have found.

The drug, prescribed to women until 1975 to protect against miscarriage and combat morning sickness, has already been found to have increased the risk of breast cancer in mothers who took it.

But now it appears the legacy has been passed onto their daughters - with the dangers increasing as they approach menopause, the Daily Mail reported.

According to the newspaper, scientists at Boston University said women whose mothers took DES had a 40% increased risk of breast cancer. The danger posed by DES increased with age.

The researchers also said that the greater the amount of the drug taken by the mother the more likely the daughter would develop the cancer.

The scientists compared rates of the disease in 4,000 daughters of those who took DES and 2,000 who had not taken the drug.

Lead researcher Professor Julie Palmer said: "This is really unwelcome news because so many women worldwide were prenatally exposed to DES and they are just now approaching the age at which breast cancer becomes more common." She said those who were exposed to DES should be screened regularly for breast cancer.

DES was withdrawn after children suffered disorders of the reproductive system, including cancers of the vagina and low sperm counts and increased risk of testicular cancer in men.

Heather Justice, of DES Action UK told the Daily Mail: "We've known since the seventies about the risk of vaginal cancer, and now as these women are getting to the menopause and there are hormonal changes, we are seeing breast cancers starting to emerge."

She added: "People should be asking their mothers whether they can remember being prescribed it during their pregnancy, then insisting on proper screening and care."

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