I’ve written several posts detailing my possible exposure to DES. If you start from the earliest post, you can follow along with me as I “think out loud” about this whole thing. Occasionally, a post springs from new information; sometimes, it’s just from thinking about the same information in a new way.
Someone recently commented on an older post, saying that three different doctors have told her that if she weren’t so young, they’d assume she’d been exposed to DES. Just like me. They say it’s just a “birth defect.” Maybe. I wish it were so, because then I wouldn’t even have to think about clear cell adenocarcinoma, an increased breast cancer risk, and an increased risk of just about everything else, too. Which doesn’t even begin to touch the worries about my kids. Although boys aren’t affected as often as girls, DES sons can have problems including an increased risk of cancer. They haven’t studied 3rd-generation DES exposure much, but studies in mice indicate a possibility of generational problems.
While I was pondering the comment, a possibility presented itself to my mind. I remembered reading about a study in which pharmaceuticals were found in the drinking water of several major cities. Purification processes don’t remove chemicals (or at least not these chemicals) from water. So what does that say about what may have happened 30 or 40 years ago? Was water purification and sewage treatment better in the 40s, 50s, and 60s than it is today? I very much doubt it. People took fewer prescription drugs, I’m sure; but I’m equally sure that the bodily processes worked the same then and excreted just as much used or unused drugs as they do now. And birth-control pills used to be much higher strength than they are today. So, even with fewer women on The Pill, there might have been more drugs and hormones in the water then.
If that was true of birth control pills, might it not also be true of DES? Perhaps my grandmother drank DES-contaminated water when she was pregnant with my mom. If something like that is possible, then no one truly is safe. The wikipedia article on diethylstilbestrol says that it was also used in meat production in the 60s and phased out in the late 70s. Could my mom have come in contact with it then? When I was a young child, my parents kept some cows and goats. Was DES in their feed and absorbed into her skin and then into my body?
Of course, since birth control pills were much stronger then, it may be that my mom drank too much hormone-contaminated water when she was pregnant with me, giving me a cervix that looks like DES exposure but without any actual DES exposure. Of course, since she had 4 kids in 6 years (finally having her tubes tied after me), she must not have gotten very much, eh? 🙂
Oh, the possibilities. I feel somewhat better at least knowing I’m not the only one… but not so much better that I think I definitely was not exposed.