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Gender-related behavior in women exposed prenatally to diethylstilbestrol.

Environmental Health Perspectives
Environmental Health Perspectives
Publication Date
  • Research Article
  • Ecology
  • Economics
  • Geography
  • Psychology


Accumulating evidence in experimental animals over the past three decades suggests that mammalian brain development and differentiation of the central nervous system are influenced by perinatal exposure to sex hormones. Hence, changes in human behavioral patterns may be associated with prenatal exposure to estrogenic substances such as diethylstilbestrol (DES). This paper reviews relevant studies from a series of laboratories and finds that no clear-cut differences can be demonstrated to date between unexposed and DES-exposed women in gender-related behavior, although the physical and psychological impact of the problems associated with exposure to DES are well documented. If both prenatal and postnatal influences such as social, economic, and environmental factors are taken into consideration, individual variation is more apparent than differences in gender-related behavior between unexposed and DES-exposed women. In summary, gender-related behavior is determined by a complex array of interacting factors, and prenatal influences are only one of many developmental events. More studies are needed using larger populations with carefully controlled selection criteria to suggest a direct role of prenatal DES exposure on subsequent gender-related behavior. Images p208-a

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