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Medicine regulator provides further advice for women exposed to diethylstilboestrol (DES)

Media statement

23 April 2008

Australia's medicines regulator, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), has today issued further advice on its website for women exposed to diethylstilboestrol.

Diethylstilboestrol, or DES (also known as stilboestrol), is a synthetic oestrogen which was used between 1940 and the early 1970s to prevent miscarriage in women with a previous poor pregnancy outcome. DES is no longer available in Australia.

Exposure in the womb to DES has been shown to be associated with an increase in the risk of developing certain types of vaginal and cervical cancer. A recent review commissioned by the National Breast and Ovarian Cancer Centre suggests that DES daughters may have an increased risk of breast cancer.

Women who took DES and the daughters of these women ("DES daughters") are reminded to follow the current national cervical and breast screening recommendations. The current cervical screening recommendations were published by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) in June 2005, "Screening to Prevent Cervical Cancer: Guidelines for the Management of Asymptomatic Women with Screen Detected Abnormalities". These guidelines contain a specific section regarding women exposed to DES advising that they should be offered annual cytological screening and colposcopic examination of both the cervix and the vagina.

The Cancer Council of New South Wales advises that women prescribed DES while pregnant and DES Daughters over age 40 should have annual mammography. They should also be 'Breast Aware' by familiarising themselves with the normal look and feel of their breasts, and report any unusual breast changes to their doctor irrespective of whether they have had recent screening mammography with normal results.

More information on DES is available at the Cancer Council of New South Wales - Diethylstilbestrol (DES) and Cancer*; or at NSW Health - DES (Diethylstilboestrol or Stilboestrol)*.

Media contact: Kay McNiece, TGA Media Adviser, 0412 132 585

*06/07/2015 - review commissioned by the National Breast and Ovarian Cancer Centre - this web link has been removed as the NBOCC website no longer exists

*03/12/2014 - Diethylstilbestrol (DES) and Cancer - this web link has been removed as the information appears to be no longer available on the NSW health website

*22/04/2009 - DES (Diethylstilboestrol or Stilboestrol) - this web link has been removed as the information appears to be no longer available on the NSW health website