Prenatal Exposure to Diethylstilbestrol (DES)

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    Cryptochid

    Cryptochid Junior Member

    Prenatal Exposure to Diethylstilbestrol (DES)
    in Males and Gender-Related Disorders:
    Results from a 5-Year Study
    by
    Scott P. Kerlin, Ph.D.
    DES Sons International Network
    Vancouver, B.C., Canada
    Skerlin2000@yahoo.com
    July 2005
    Paper prepared for the
    International Behavioral Development Symposium 2005
    Minot, North Dakota
    An earlier version of this paper was presented at
    E.Hormone 2004, New Orleans
    http://e.hormone.tulane.edu
    2
    Prenatal Exposure to Diethylstilbestrol (DES)
    in Males and Gender-Related Disorders:
    Results from a 5-Year Study
    Scott P. Kerlin, Ph.D.
    Abstract
    For many years, researchers and public health specialists have been assessing
    the human health impact of prenatal exposure to the estrogenic antimiscarriage
    drug, diethylstilbestrol (commonly known as DES or stilbestrol).
    The scope of adverse effects in females exposed to DES (often called DES
    daughters) has been more substantially documented than the effects in males
    (DES sons). This paper contributes three areas of important research on DES
    exposure in males: (1) an overview of published literature discussing the
    confirmed and suspected adverse effects of prenatal exposure in DES sons; (2)
    preliminary results from a 5-year online study of DES sons involving 500
    individuals with confirmed (60% of sample) and suspected prenatal DES
    exposure; (3) documentation of the presence of gender identity disorders and
    male-to-female transsexualism reported by more than 100 participants in the
    study.
    3
    Prenatal Exposure to Diethylstilbestrol (DES)
    in Males and Gender-Related Disorders:
    Results from a 5-Year Study
    Introduction and Background
    During the 1970s and 1980s an increased amount of public and scientific attention was paid to
    the health and medical problems of individuals whose mothers were prescribed
    diethylstilbestrol (DES). A potent synthetic nonsteroidal estrogen, DES was first developed in
    1938 and initially became available in the U.S. for treating a range of gynecologic conditions in
    1941 (Apfel and Fisher, 1984). A few years later its approval by the FDA was broadened to
    include treatment of pregnant women for the purpose of preventing miscarriages. Though its
    efficacy had long been questioned by some in the medical community (Bambigboye and Morris,
    2003; Dieckmann, 1953), DES remained popular with doctors until discovery in the early
    1970s of an apparent association between prenatal exposure to DES and a rare form of vaginal
    cancer in females whose mothers used DES (Heinonen, 1973; Herbst and Bern, 1981).
    Subsequent research confirmed the transplacental mechanism of DES transmission (Maydl, et
    al., 1983) and classified DES as a carcinogen and teratogen (Mittendorf, 1995) as well as a
    mutagen (Roy and Liehr, 1999; Stopper et al., 2005).
    While DES usage with pregnant women was banned by the FDA in 1971, the drug continued to
    be used in several European countries into the early 1980s (Schrager and Potter, 2004). DES
    remained a popular option for treatment of advanced prostate cancer in aging males due to its
    ability to inhibit luteinizing hormone secretion by the pituitary and thus inhibit testosterone
    secretion (Scherr and Pitts, 2003; Whitesel, 2003), despite reports that adverse effects from
    this treatment could include feminization in males (B. C. Cancer Agency, 2005). Through the
    1970s DES was also prescribed as an estrogen supplement for treatment of male-to-female
    transsexuals (Kwan, 1985; Ober, 1976).
    It has been estimated that as many as four to five million American women were prescribed
    DES during pregnancy. Estimates of the numbers of DES daughters and DES sons born in
    the U.S. are between one million and three million each (Edelman, 1986). Hundreds of
    thousands of DES sons and daughters were also born in Canada, Europe and Australia between
    the 1940s and 1980s. Efforts to determine exact numbers of prenatally exposed individuals,
    and the dosage and exposure patterns, particularly during the years of prime DES popularity,
    1947-55 in the U.S., have been largely unsuccessful (Duke, et al., 2000; Heinonen, 1973).
    Because DES proved popular as a growth-stimulant in the cattle industry (Raun and Preston,
    2002) for more than forty years (McLachlan, 2001), many consumers have also been exposed
    to unknown amounts of DES as it entered the food chain through beef consumption.
    Following the FDA restrictions on DES prescriptions in the U.S. in 1971, researchers began to
    document a range of confirmed and suspected adverse effects of prenatal DES exposure in
    females and males (Edelman, 1986). Compared with the volume of published research on
    adverse effects in DES daughters, however, relatively few primary studies of DES sons have
    been published. The scope of known and suspected health effects among DES sons discussed
    in literature published since the 1950s includes (1) reproductive tract abnormalities; (2)
    infertility; (3) testicular cancer; (4) prostatic hyperplasia and cancer; (5) psychosexual effects;
    (6) psychiatric effects; and (7) effects on hemispheric laterality and spatial ability (Giusti et al.,
    1995; Pillard, et al., 1993; Reinisch and Sanders, 1992; Verdoux, 2004).
    4
    In 1959, a single case study of pseudohermaphrodism in a male with prenatal DES exposure
    was reported (Kaplan, 1959). Reports of urogenital abnormalities in DES sons first appeared in
    the medical literature during the 1970s (Andonian and Kessler, 1979; Bibbo et al., 1977;
    Cosgrove et al., 1977; Gill et al., 1979; Gill, et al., 1988; Henderson et al., 1976), consistent
    with results of experiments with prenatal DES exposure in male mice reported by McLachlan et
    al. (1975) and Newbold et al. (1987). These effects include epididymal (benign) cysts,
    hypoplastic or undescended testes (chryptorchidism), microphallus or underdeveloped penis,
    and hypospadias. Using data from DES sons participating in the DES cohort studies funded by
    the National Cancer Institute (NCI), researchers have examined possible links between
    prenatal DES exposure and greater risk of male infertility but have reached inconclusive
    findings (Wilcox et al., 1995). Although heightened testicular cancer risk has long been
    associated with prenatal DES exposure in males, researchers using the NCI cohorts to track
    cancer outcomes among DES sons claim to have measured no statistically significant increases
    in testicular or other forms of cancer (Strohsnitter, et al. 2001).
    John McLachlan (2001), a pioneering DES researcher whose studies have assessed the effects
    of DES exposure in laboratory animals and mechanisms of DES toxicity for the past three
    decades, was among the first researchers to classify DES within a broader family of chemical
    compounds called environmental estrogens, xenoestrogens, or endocrine disrupting
    chemicals because of their common ability to mimic and interfere with normal hormonal
    processes associated with reproductive development. He has observed:
    Developmental feminization at the structural or functional level is an emerging theme in
    species exposed, during embryonic or fetal life, to estrogenic compounds. Human
    experience as well as studies in experimental animals with the potent estrogen
    diethylstilbestrol provide informative models (2001).
    The evolving research on endocrine disruptors has implicated DES in a variety of sexual
    differentiation disorders of the brain and body in males (Colburn et al, 1993; McLachlan et al.,
    2001; Sharpe, 2001; 2004; Sultan et al, 2001; Toppari et al., 1996), including testicular
    dysgenesis syndrome (Boisen, et al., 2001; Skakkebk, Meyts, and Main, 2001). In 1993,
    Sharpe and Skakkebk observed:
    Treatment of several million pregnant women between 1945 and 1971 with a synthetic
    oestrogen diethylstilbestrol (DES) is now recognized to have led to substantial increases
    in the incidence of cryptorchidism and hypospadias and decreased semen volume and
    sperm counts in the sons of these women. DES exposure may also increase the
    incidence of testicular cancer and cryptorchidism. The similarity between these effects
    and the adverse changes in male reproductive development and function over the past
    40-50 years raises the question of whether the adverse changes are attributable to
    altered exposure to oestrogens during fetal development. This possibility is not unlikely
    given the view that humans now live in an environment that can be viewed as a virtual
    sea of oestrogens (Sharpe and Skakkebk, 1993).
    However, in a recent Danish meta-review of published epidemiological studies involving the
    association of prenatal indicators of estrogen exposure (including prenatal DES) and the
    deleterious impact on human male reproductive health such as reduced sperm counts,
    cryptorchidism, hypospadias and testicular cancer, Storgaard et al. (2005) reached this
    conclusion:
    With the possible exception of testicular cancer there is no strong epidemiological
    evidence to indicate that prenatal exposures to estrogen are linked to disturbed
    development of the male reproductive organs. It is unlikely that phytoestrogens and
    5
    several environmental xenoestrogens play a role unless exposures are extremely high
    (which is not expected), the doseresponse relation is U-shaped or mixtures of
    xenoestrogens have synergistic actions. Low exposure levels for xenoestrogens may,
    however, operate by means of other toxicological mechanisms (Storgaard, et al.,
    2005).
    It has been hypothesized that prenatal DES exposure may also have led to behavioral effects
    in humans (Meyer-Bahlburg and Erhardt, 1986; Meyer-Bahlburg, et al., 1995). Primary
    studies exploring possible behavioral and psychiatric effects of prenatal DES exposure in males
    first appeared in the literature during the 1970s. DES exposure has been associated with
    increased potential for major depressive disorders and other psychiatric effects in males (Katz,
    et al., 1987; Meyer-Bahlburg et al., 1985; Pillard et al., 1993; Saunders, 1988; Vessey et al.,
    1983). Recent discussions of potential psychiatric effects of prenatal DES exposure, including
    gender-related effects and schizophrenia, have been presented by Verdoux (2000; 2004) and
    Boog (2004). Verdoux summarizes the research on DES in the psychiatric literature this way:
    Sparse findings suggest that exposure to xenoestrogens such as diethylstilbestrol may
    be a risk factor for psychiatric disorders, mediated by a possible deleterious impact of
    the substances on foetal neurodevelopment, but this hypothesis is speculative owing to
    the small number of studies and their methodological limitations (Verdoux, 2004).
    Among the possible effects associated with prenatal DES exposure that have been discussed in
    the literature is impact on psychosexual development (Giusti et al., 1995). Research
    investigating possible psychosexual impact in human males was first published in the 1970s
    (Yalom, Green, and Fisk, 1973). Studies by Kester et al. (1980), Reinisch and Sanders (1984;
    1992) and Reinisch, et al., (1991) attempted to assess various dimensions of masculine and
    feminine behavior and spatial ability among DES sons. In their meta-analysis of 19 studies
    on the behavioral effects of prenatal exposure to hormones administered for the treatment of
    at-risk human pregnancy (including the Yalom et al., 1973 and Kester et al., 1980 studies of
    DES-exposed males), Reinisch et al. (1991) concluded:
    The data on prenatal exposure to synthetic estrogen derive primarily from subjects
    exposed to diethylstilbestrol (DES). DES-exposed male subjects appeared to be
    feminized and/or demasculinized, and there is some evidence that DES-exposed female
    subjects were masculinized.
    A study of psychosexual characteristics (limited to questions regarding handedness, age at
    first sexual intercourse, number of sexual partners, percent having exclusively
    heterosexual partners, percentage ever married) was conducted in 1994 with responses
    from DES sons and DES daughters participating in the National Cancer Institutes long-term
    DES combined cohort studies (Titus-Ernstoff, et al. 2003). Although Udry (2003) critiques the
    Titus-Ernstoff study for not examining gendered behaviors, no primary research investigating
    gender-related outcomes of DES-exposed males has been published since the Reinisch et al.
    review of 1991.
    While it is not possible in this paper to review the extensive array of experimental animal
    research involving prenatal and neonatal DES exposure, two recent wildlife studies of the
    effects of DES on the reproductive function and behavior of male Japanese quail are notable.
    One study by Halldin et al. (2004) included DES in a primary assessment of the effects of
    estrogenic chemicals administered during the sexual differentiation phase in Japanese quail.
    They summarize:
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    We conclude that the Japanese quail is well suited as an animal model for studying
    various long-term effects after embryonic exposure to estrogenic compounds.
    Depressed sexual behavior is proved to be the most sensitive of the variables studied in
    males and we find this endpoint appropriate for studying effects of endocrine
    modulating chemicals in the adult quail following embryonic exposure.
    A separate study of sexual behavior in male quail by Viglietti-Panzica et al. (2004) led to the
    conclusion:
    The present data demonstrate that embryonic treatment with diethylstilbestrol induces
    a full sex reversal of behavioral phenotype as well as a significant decrease of vasotocin
    expression in the preoptic-limbic region in male Japanese quail.
    These findings are consistent with those of Walker and Kurth (1993), who experimented with
    DES in laboratory mice and concluded that abnormal sexual differentiation of the fetal
    hypothalamus is the most common by-product of DES exposure. Many questions remain as to
    how extensively the results of wildlife and animal behavioral studies involving DES can be
    extrapolated to measurable effects in humans (Zala and Penn, 2004). Questions with regard to
    the full impact of prenatal DES exposure on the genetic aspects of sexual differentiation have
    also been raised in recent years (Fielden, et al., 2002; Mericskay et al., 2005). These issues
    validate the importance of continued study and documentation of the developmental effects of
    DES exposure in animals as well as humans.
    Researching DES Sons: An Internet Study
    In July 1999, the U.S. National Cancer Institute, National Institute of Environmental Health
    Sciences, Office of Research on Womens Health and the Centers for Disease Control jointly
    sponsored a two-day conference, DES Research Update 1999: Current Knowledge, Future
    Directions (NCI, 1999). The event brought together leading DES research scientists, public
    health specialists, and DES-exposed advocacy group representatives for an evaluation of what
    was known and what still needed further investigation in the realm of human health effects of
    DES exposure. Among the notable conclusions of this conference was that DES sons had been
    insufficiently studied, and that more studies were needed to document the full range of
    adverse health consequences in DES sons.
    This present study was initially conceptualized as an Internet-based outreach campaign for
    locating DES sons from around the world and inspired by the need for more primary research
    involving DES sons. During the same month as the NCIs DES conference, the DES Sons online
    network was launched at http://health.groups.yahoo.com/group/des-sons. Scott Kerlin, a DES
    son born in 1953, founded the network after extensive review of existing DES research and
    following a series of discussions with DES Action USA, the largest advocacy group representing
    DES-exposed individuals in the United States. In 2003, the networks name was updated to
    DES Sons International Network in order to reflect the inclusion of DES sons located in
    Canada, Europe, and Australia. An extensive online reference library was also developed and
    maintained at http://health.groups.yahoo.com/group/des-sons/links.
    The perceived advantages of utilizing the Internet for conducting this study included:
    o Opportunities for greater anonymity and privacy among participants
    o Ability to include participants in research activities in a more convenient fashion
    (asynchronous, ongoing communication) than in traditional face-to-face interviews
    or one-time surveys
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    o Ability to enroll study participants in a virtual support group environment (i.e.,
    network-associated private discussion list) that enabled the researcher to present
    questions pertaining to DES exposure or effects which stimulated group discussion
    and deeper levels of self-disclosure than in traditional interview formats (Murray,
    1997)
    o Opportunity for participants to develop a greater comfort level with participation in
    the research, which can lead to increased willingness to self-disclose about health,
    medical, or psychological issues of great sensitivity.
    The networks goals at the outset included (1) locating individual males who could confirm
    their prenatal DES exposure (i.e., confirmation that they are DES sons); (2) documenting the
    range of self-report indicators of lifetime health, medical, and behavioral concerns reported
    directly by DES sons; (3) promoting interpersonal support among DES sons; (4) expanding
    investigation of the confirmed and suspected adverse effects of prenatal DES exposure in
    males by surveying DES sons who had never participated in the NCIs DES cohort studies.; (5)
    attempting to document the length of prenatal drug exposure including determination of the
    trimester of mothers initial use of DES during pregnancy; and (6) assessing the level of public
    awareness about DES sons.
    The revelation in the early 1970s of heightened cancer risk among DES daughters led to a
    public advocacy movement among DES daughters and their mothers for increased research on
    DES and womens reproductive health concerns along with greater accountability among the
    drug companies (Seaman, 2003). However, DES sons have historically remained relatively
    isolated from one another and their health concerns have been largely unknown to the public.
    Among the activities of the DES Sons International Network was to document the most
    common patterns by which DES sons learned of their prenatal exposure. Researchers had long
    recognized that among DES daughters, the most common form of notification regarding DES
    exposure was from mothers (Apfel and Fischer, 1984; Seaman, 2003). Less has been known
    about communications and relationships between DES sons and their mothers although it is
    believed that lower percentages of DES sons than DES daughters have been informed of their
    exposure (NCI, 1999).
    Sample Development
    Upon launch of the DES Sons online network in 1999, announcements about the network were
    made through a variety of DES print and online outreach resources from DES Action USA, DES
    Action Canada, and DES Action Australia. Other announcements about the sons network and
    its web site were posted in male reproductive health resource networks where outreach was
    thought to provide greatest likelihood of reaching individual males with evidence of prenatal
    exposure.
    Online requests for network memberships and listserv subscriptions became the mechanism
    by which, over time, the sample of DES sons was developed for the subsequent research
    study. Each request was carefully screened for (1) evidence or confirmation of prenatal DES
    exposure; (2) confirmation of birth between the late-1940s and early 1970s in all requests
    from individuals born in the U.S.; (3) confirmation that the subscriber was born as a male and
    thus qualified to be considered a DES Son. There was no cost to participants who joined the
    network and all participation in subsequent interviews, surveys, and online discussions
    involved voluntary consent of the study participants. Members were asked to preserve the
    closed nature of all online discussions (i.e., access to list discussions was only for individuals
    who had become network members). In order to participate in the networks discussion list,
    8
    each membership applicant was asked by the researcher to provide a summary history of
    principal health, medical, and psychological issues that had occurred across the lifespan.
    In accordance with recommended best practices in online health and medical research
    methodology, all health histories and online interview data gathered in this study were
    preserved confidentially offline and appropriate steps were followed to assure privacy (Duffy,
    2002; Eysenbach, 2002; Sheehan and Hoy, 1999; Stone, 2003).
    During 2003, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) held a year-long
    DES Update public education and outreach campaign for providing information to DESexposed
    individuals (online at http://www.cdc.gov/DES/). The DES Sons International
    Network served as a participating partner and was the largest organization of DES sons to join
    the campaign. As a result, nearly 100 DES sons ultimately joined the online network in
    subsequent months.
    Primary research on DES sons' health issues conducted through the network included (1)
    documenting each members self-report indicators of critical health, medical, and
    psychological events or issues across the lifespan; (2) periodic analysis and reporting of
    statistical data summaries of leading health concerns reported by DES-exposed members; (3)
    conducting several online surveys (open to network members only, and archived under the
    polls section of the DES sons network web site at
    http://health.groups.yahoo.com/group/des-sons/polls) on issues of reported greatest concern
    among network members; (4) follow-up interviews (open-ended) with individual DES sons,
    either online or by telephone when permission was granted for the researcher to make
    subsequent contact. Reports of research findings were posted annually to the DES Sons
    International Network in order to keep members aware of the range of primary health and
    medical concerns raised by network subscribers. A preliminary report summarizing what had
    been learned from research with DES sons during the first three years of the study, 1999-
    2002, was published by Kerlin and Beyer in 2003 (Kerlin and Beyer, 2003).
    Study Statistics and Preliminary Findings
    This papers Appendix presents an overview of statistics from initial analysis of data gathered
    during the primary study of DES sons discussed in this paper. The period of the full study
    spanned five years, from July 1999 to July 2004. What follows is a brief summary of the results
    that have been determined so far, based on feedback from more than 500 study participants.
    Data analysis will continue until 2006, when a full report will be released.
    Sample Size
    By July 2004, a sample of approximately 500 males with confirmed (60% of total) or
    strongly suspected DES exposure (40% of total) participated in the DES Sons
    International Network research and provided a summary of major health, medical, and
    psychological issues they had encountered across the lifespan. Among the 60% of
    participants who indicated they had confirmed their exposure, the majority of confirmations
    came from the mothers verification of having been given DES at some time during the
    pregnancy. The total number of study participants who have confirmed their exposure
    through direct access to their mothers medical records continues to be investigated (see
    Appendix, Part I).
    Nations of Origin
    Approximately 85% of network members were born in the U.S., while 5% each indicated
    they were born in Canada, Europe (chiefly UK) or Australia.
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    Core Health Concerns of DES Sons
    Based on preliminary analysis of critical health issues reported by individual DES sons in
    the network, the three topics most frequently listed among the sample of 500 individuals
    with confirmed or suspected prenatal DES exposure are (a) gender identity concerns (at
    least 150 reports); (b) psychological/mental health issues, especially depression and
    anxiety disorders (at least 100 reports); and (c) hormonal/endocrine health issues (at least
    75 reports) (see Appendix, Part II).
    Additional Reported Adverse Health Effects
    Though identified less frequently in overall health reports provided by study participants,
    several participants listed histories of infertility, reproductive tract abnormalities (including
    reports of ambiguous or underdeveloped genitalia), epididymal cysts, cryptorchidism,
    hypospadias, gynecomastia, and erectile dysfunction. Statistics on the full extent of
    reporting of these concerns are still undergoing analysis.
    Prevalence of Male-to-Female Transsexual, Transgender, and Intersex Individuals
    More than 150 network members with confirmed or strongly suspected prenatal DES
    exposure identified as either transsexual, pre- or post-operative, (90 members),
    transgender (48 members), gender dysphoric (17 members), or intersex (3
    members). These statistics are taken from self-report terms provided by individual
    participants in their health histories (see Appendix, Part III).
    Low Cancer Prevalence
    Only 7 individuals with confirmed or strongly suspected prenatal DES exposure have
    reported experiencing some form of cancer. Most were testicular cancer survivors.
    Discussion
    Among the most significant findings from this study is the high prevalence of individuals
    with confirmed or strongly suspected prenatal DES exposure who self-identify as male-tofemale
    transsexual or transgender, and individuals who have reported experiencing
    difficulties with gender dysphoria.
    In this study, more than 150 individuals with confirmed or suspected prenatal DES
    exposure reported moderate to severe feelings of gender dysphoria across the lifespan. For
    most, these feelings had apparently been present since early childhood. The prevalence of
    a significant number of self-identified male-to-female transsexuals and transgendered
    individuals as well as some individuals who identify as intersex, androgynous, gay or
    bisexual males has inspired fresh investigation of historic theories about a possible
    biological/endocrine basis for psychosexual development in humans, including sexual
    orientation, core gender identity, and sexual identity (Benjamin, 1973; Cohen-Kettenis and
    Gooren, 1999; Diamond, 1965, 1996; Michel et al, 2001; Swaab, 2004).
    Mental health and psychiatric issues (including depression and anxiety disorders) are
    relatively significant among the population of DES sons participating in this research.
    This studys findings provide fresh evidence of psychiatric disturbances among individuals
    exposed to DES. It is hopeful that future research on human health effects of exposure to
    endocrine disrupting chemicals (i.e., assessing neurotoxicity) can include psychiatric
    10
    disturbances such as major depression, anxiety disorders, eating disorders, and psychoses
    as potential endpoints for analysis of the long-term effects from prenatal exposure.
    Additional questions may be explored as to whether psychiatric conditions such as
    increased depression and/or anxiety disorders in DES sons have a foundation in primary
    endocrine system disorders.
    Endocrine system disorders such as hypogonadotropic hypogonadism in DES sons have
    been among the more common reported adverse health effects in this research study.
    Although the prevalence of endocrine system disorders among DES sons has not been
    discussed in any of the existing published epidemiological research on DES-exposed
    populations, both the Endocrine Society and the American Association of Clinical
    Endocrinologists (2002) have recognized prenatal DES exposure as a risk factor for
    endocrine disorders including hypogonadism. This study confirms that this issue needs
    further attention in future studies of DES sons.
    Relative infrequency of reported cancer among the DES sons in this research is consistent
    with most existing long-term studies demonstrating limited cancer prevalence in males with
    prenatal DES exposure.
    While the rate of total cancer occurrence among members of the DES Sons International
    Network is uncertain, numerous efforts have been made to generate discussion about
    cancer risks and in particular, to encourage dialogue regarding testicular cancer
    experiences. Approximately seven members of the network between the study years of
    1999 and 2004 indicated some past or present experience with testicular cancer. It appears
    that overall cancer outcomes among network members have been low, a finding consistent
    with research by Strohsnitter et al. (2001).
    Based on the findings in this study, research into the human health effects of exposure to
    endocrine disrupting chemicals needs to focus on additional behavioral toxic endpoints
    besides those historically investigated.
    Although the scope of documented human health effects from prenatal exposure to various
    endocrine-disrupting chemicals continues to expand, the study of human behavioral effects is
    still in relative infancy (Ferguson, 2002; Swaab, 2004). This studys findings may offer new
    insights for the emerging field of neurobehavioral teratology relative to understanding
    disturbances of gender identity and sexual identity development.
    Implications
    Undoubtedly the results of this study--particularly the findings with regard to the prevalence of
    gender-related concerns among a significant number of individuals with confirmed and/or
    suspected prenatal DES exposure--will come as a surprise for some. It is worth noting that
    investigations regarding the possible effects of prenatal DES exposure on sexual differentiation
    (brain and body), and sexual orientation have been undergoing discussion for quite some time
    (Baron-Cohen, 2004; Hines, 1998; Hines 1999; Meyer-Bahlburg et al., 1995; Toppari and
    Skakkebk, 1998), though more emphasis in the published research has tended to be placed
    on possible effects in DES daughters than in DES sons.
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    While prior to this current study there have been no primary research studies of DES sons
    which have documented the prevalence of transsexualism or other gender identity disorders,
    there are publications in which prenatal DES exposure is listed among the potential factors
    associated with transsexualism or sexual differentiation disorders. For example, Michel,
    Mormont, and Legros (2001) in their psycho-endocrinological overview of transsexualism
    observe the following:
    Gender identity disorders may be the consequence of an atypical hormonal environment
    such as congenital adrenal hyperplasia, resistance to androgens or even exogenous
    hormonal impregnation (the absorption of diethylstilboestrol treatment during
    pregnancy). In the majority of cases, these subjects do not develop towards
    transsexualism (2001, p. 366).
    In the 6th edition of the widely-consulted Dictionary of Organic Compounds (1996) the DES
    entry appears on pages 2175-2176 and includes within its array of documented adverse
    effects, causes male impotence and transsexual changes particularly in offspring exposed in
    utero. In the text, Human Embryology & Teratology, Second Edition (1996), ORahilly and
    Muller list DES among their directory of hormonal teratogens, stating, Exposure of a female
    conceptus to DES, which can act as an estrogen, can lead to bisexuality. In a male conceptus,
    the secretion of testosterone can be suppressed, resulting in hypomasculinization. (ORahilly
    and Muller, 1996, p. 111).
    The term gender-bending chemicals has become relatively popular with the news media in
    their latest reports on the toxic effects of endocrine disrupting chemicals such as phthalates on
    male reproductive development (Sample, 2005; Swan et al., 2005). Scarcely more than a
    decade ago, the concept was almost unheard of. Its introduction into early news stories
    describing documented and suspected but unconfirmed effects of endocrine disrupting
    chemicals (EDCs) no doubt provoked both amusement and angst in the public imagination (see
    Gender-Bending Pollution, 1995). By the time the World Health Organizations International
    Programme on Chemical Safety had released its Global Assessment of the State-of-the-
    Science of Endocrine Disruptors (IPCS, 2002), the story of DES had become part of the story
    of an entire group of environmentally-present toxic chemicals thought capable of creating a
    variety of reproductive abnormalities in humans as well as animal populations (Alarm at
    Gender-Bending Chemicals, 2002). In that same year, Dutch researchers studying male and
    female childrens play behavior documented apparent feminizing effects in boys resulting
    from perinatal exposure to PCBs and dioxins (Vreugdenhil, et al., 2002). Undoubtedly, the
    issue of endocrine disruption and potential impact on gender identity and sexual development
    is an issue that merits wider investigation in the future (Johnson, 2004).
    Historically, in the case of news stories about DES and its cancer-causing effects in DES
    daughters, many revelations first occurred in the 1970s (Berkson, 2000; Krimsky, 2000), but
    publicity regarding DES sons remained largely absent. And yet, there was no lack of
    recognition in the published medical literature that historically, at least some males prenatally
    exposed to DES were born with structural and functional disorders of the reproductive tract
    (Cosgrove, et al., 1977) or suffered psychiatric effects (Pillard et al, 1993).
    If the results of this current study have pointed out anything significant, it is that we cannot
    relegate DES to the dustbin of cancer-causing drugs no longer being used and therefore
    unworthy of continued investigation. And we cannot afford to limit the scope of our vigilance
    and public health information regarding long term effects of DES to cancer outcomes (Schrager
    and Potter, 2004).
    12
    Acknowledgments
    I wish to thank Milton Diamond, Ph.D., University of Hawaii, John McLachlan, Ph.D., Center for
    Bioenvironmental Research at Tulane/Xavier Universities, Dana Beyer, M.D., (DES Sons
    International Network), Kathy Cochrane, and Christine Johnson for their helpful comments,
    suggestions and generous support.
    13
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    20
    APPENDIX
    DES Sons International Network 5-Year Summary Statistics
    ___________________________________________________________________________
    I. Statistics on DES Sons Participating in the DES Sons International Network
    Between 1999 and 2004
    Online Study Dates: July 1999 to July 2004
    Totals
    (a) # of individuals requesting membership on DES Sons network listserv 600+
    (b) # of individuals (after initial screening) with confirmed or suspected
    prenatal DES exposure who were allowed to join DES sons network > 500
    (c) % of (b) who confirmed prenatal DES exposure 60%
    (d) % of (b) with suspected but unconfirmed prenatal DES exposure 40%
    (e) % of (b) with direct access to mothers medical records Unknown
    1. In the five years since formation of the DES Sons network in July 1999, approximately 600
    individuals requested information or support through e-mail follow-up requests and/or
    requests to join the network. This is over and above all information that is freely available
    for visitors to the Networks web site (http://health.groups.yahoo.com/group/des-sons)
    which provides substantial information and resources on DES without subscription. Because
    the DES Sons International network does not maintain statistics on total Internet traffic to
    its web site, there is no accurate method to gauge how many other affected individuals
    may be utilizing this information.
    2. Of the 600 individuals who have sought further DES information, approximately 500
    indicated at the time of my initial screening that they had either actual confirmation (from
    mother, or direct access to medical records) or strong suspicions (based on unconfirmed
    information from other family members) that they had been exposed to DES in utero.
    These 500 individuals with confirmed or suspected prenatal DES exposure were members
    of the network sometime between 1999 and 2004.
    II. DES Sons Reported Health and Medical Concerns: Frequency of Reporting
    (Note: Figures are based on preliminary analysis of response data and will be
    finalized in 2006)
    Totals % of Total
    (a) Number of DES sons (confirmed exposure) participating in the 300 60%
    online study between 1999 and 2004
    (b) Number of individual males with suspected but unconfirmed 200 40%
    prenatal DES exposure participating in study
    (c) Numbers of DES sons (confirmed and suspected) reporting various health and
    medical concerns (percentages are of confirmed and suspected exposure):
    Gender Dysphoria or Gender Identity Concerns 150+ 30%
    Major depression and/or anxiety disorders 100+ 20%
    Hypogonadism or other hormone-related disorders 75 15%
    Infertility 30 6%
    Testicular Cancer 7 1.4%
    21
    1. Based on health history summaries received by the DES sons network between 1999 and
    2004 from individuals with confirmed and suspected DES exposure, the three areas of
    greatest health concern among DES sons in the network appear to be (a) gender identity
    disturbances; (b) psychological/mental health issues including anxiety and depression; and
    (c) hormonal/endocrine health issues, especially hypogonadism. More than 150 members
    (all individuals who were born male) described histories of significant feelings of gender
    discomfort, and more than 90 identified as male-to-female transsexuals. More than 100
    members described lifetime experiences with depression and/or anxiety disorders.
    2. Somewhat lower proportions of members indicated concerns regarding autoimmune
    disorders, infertility, reproductive tract abnormalities, ambiguous or underdeveloped
    genitalia, epididymal cysts, testicular cancer, and erectile dysfunction. Because not every
    individual member has necessarily disclosed the full range of health issues or medical
    concerns by which he or she has been affected, the relative significance of reported health
    concerns among DES sons in this research study is an approximation, based on preliminary
    textual analysis of information which has freely volunteered by network members.
    3. Cancer reports among DES sons were relatively rare (7 reported cases of testicular cancer).
    III. Statistics of Prevalence of Transsexualism, Transgenderism, Gender Dysphoria,
    or Intersex Among Confirmed and Suspected DES Exposed Individuals (N=158)
    1. Among the population of DES sons joining the network who have discussed a history of
    gender identity concerns, personal stories and/or introductions have been received from
    more than 150 individuals with either confirmed or strongly suspected DES exposure.
    Responses were received from at least 93 individuals with confirmed prenatal DES
    exposure who self-identify as either transsexual (male-to-female), transgendered
    (male-to-female), gender dysphoric, or intersex. The distribution of these 93
    individuals is as follows:
    Confirmed DES-Exposed and Gender-Related Issues (N=93)
    (1) Confirmed Exposed and Transsexual: 54 individuals
    (2) Confirmed Exposed and Transgender: 26 individuals
    (3) Confirmed Exposed and Gender Dysphoric: 10 individuals
    (4) Confirmed Exposed and Intersex: 3 individuals
    There have been at least 65 individuals with strongly suspected but not yet confirmed
    exposure who indicated they are either either transsexual (male-to-female),
    transgendered (male-to-female), gender dysphoric, or intersex. The distribution of
    these 65 individuals is as follows:
    Strongly suspected, not confirmed DES Exposed and Gender-Related Issues (N=65)
    (1) Suspected Exposure and Transsexual: 36 individuals
    (2) Suspected Exposure and Transgender: 22 individuals
    (3) Suspected Exposure and Gender Dysphoric: 7 individuals
    (4) Suspected Exposure and Intersex none reported
    ___________________________________________________________________________
     
  2. #2
    Sunkist

    Sunkist Junior Member

    We live in a world of pseudo estrogens. We see girls beginning puberty multiple years earlier than should happen. We see many other effect related to this.

    I wonder just how much effect this stuff, not just DES, but others, has on some of our problems here?
     

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