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Br Med J. 1980 October 25; 281(6248): 1098–1101.
PMCID: PMC1714571

Randomised trial of high doses of stilboestrol and ethisterone in pregnancy: long-term follow-up of mothers.


In 1950 a trial was set up to evaluate the effects of large doses of stilboestrol and ethisterone on rates of fetal loss in pregnant diabetic women. Eighty women were allocated at random to receive the hormonal treatment and 76 to receive inactive tablets of identical appearance. At follow-up 27 years later, information was obtained about 97% of the women, all but four being traced. All respondents were unaware of who had received hormones. The overall mortality was 4.5 times that of women of comparable age in England and Wales, most deaths being from complications of diabetes. More tumours, mainly benign, of the reproductive tract were reported in the hormone-exposed than the non-exposed group (14 (18%) and two (3%) respectively). Four cases of malignant breast disease were reported in the hormone-exposed women and none in the non-exposed. These findings support other evidence linking oestrogen treatment and breast cancer and suggesting that the latent period before the tumour becomes clinically apparent may be 15 years or longer.

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Selected References

These references are in PubMed. This may not be the complete list of references from this article.
  • DIECKMANN WJ, DAVIS ME, RYNKIEWICZ LM, POTTINGER RE. Does the administration of diethylstilbestrol during pregnancy have therapeutic value? Am J Obstet Gynecol. 1953 Nov;66(5):1062–1081. [PubMed]
  • Kinlen LJ, Badaracco MA, Moffett J, Vessey MP. A survey of the use of oestrogens during pregnancy in the United Kingdom and of the genito-urinary cancer mortality and incidence rates in young people in England and Wales. J Obstet Gynaecol Br Commonw. 1974 Nov;81(11):849–855. [PubMed]
  • Bibbo M, Haenszel WM, Wied GL, Hubby M, Herbst AL. A twenty-five-year follow-up study of women exposed to diethylstilbestrol during pregnancy. N Engl J Med. 1978 Apr 6;298(14):763–767. [PubMed]
  • Brian DD, Tilley BC, Labarthe DR, O'Fallon WM, Noller KL, Kurland LT. Breast cancer in DES-exposed mothers: absence of association. Mayo Clin Proc. 1980 Feb;55(2):89–93. [PubMed]
  • WHITE P. Pregnancy complicating diabetes. Am J Med. 1949 Nov;7(5):609–616. [PubMed]
  • MEISSNER WA, SOMMERS SC. Postpartum endometrial hyperplasia in diabetics treated with stilbestrol and progesterone. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 1950 Jun;10(6):603–609. [PubMed]
  • MEISSNER WA, SOMMERS SC, SHERMAN G. Endometrial hyperplasia, endometrial carcinoma, and endometriosis produced experimentally by estrogen. Cancer. 1957 May-Jun;10(3):500–509. [PubMed]
  • Hoover R, Gray LA, Sr, Cole P, MacMahon B. Menopausal estrogens and breast cancer. N Engl J Med. 1976 Aug 19;295(8):401–405. [PubMed]

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