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Women and Newborn Health Service

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King Edward Memorial Hospital

DES (Diethylstilboestrol or Stilboestrol)

Diethylstilbestrol (DES) is a synthetic form of the female hormone estrogen. It was prescribed to pregnant women between 1940 and 1971 to prevent miscarriage, premature labor, and related complications of pregnancy. The use of DES declined after studies in the 1950s showed that it was not effective in preventing these problems.1 DES is no longer prescribed.

Research has identified those expose to DES have an increased risk for certain types of cancer. The Cancer Australia (external) website provides information:

  • about DES
  • for women who took DES while pregnant
  • for DES sons and daughters

1 to 7 June is 2016 DES Awareness Week (external site) .

1 National Cancer Institute.  Diethylstilbestrol (DES) and Cancer. Accessed: February 2016



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