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Environ Health Perspect. 1995 October; 103(Suppl 7): 83–87.
PMCID: PMC1518878
Research Article

Cellular and molecular effects of developmental exposure to diethylstilbestrol: implications for other environmental estrogens.


Concerns have been raised regarding the role of environmental and dietary estrogens as possible contributors to an increased incidence of various abnormalities in estrogen-target tissues of both sexes. These abnormalities include breast cancer, endometriosis, fibroids, and uterine adenocarcinoma in females, as well as alterations in sex differentiation, decreased sperm concentrations, benign prostatic hyperplasia, prostatic cancer, testicular cancer, and reproductive problems in males. Whether these concerns are valid remains to be determined; however, studies with the potent synthetic estrogen diethylstilbestrol (DES) suggest that exogenous estrogen exposure during critical stages of development can result in permanent cellular and molecular alterations in the exposed organism. These alterations manifest themselves in the female and male as structural, functional, or long-term pathological changes including neoplasia. Although DES has potent estrogenic activity, it may be used as a model compound to study the effects of weaker environmental estrogens, many of which may fit into the category of endocrine disruptors.

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