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DES Babies Face Increased Infertility, Breast Cancer Risk and More

Throughout the years, we have heard many concerns about the effects of diethylstilbestrol, known as DES, a synthetic form of estrogen used from the 1940s to the early 1970s to prevent certain complications of pregnancy, such as miscarriage. In 1971, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration notified physicians that DES should not be prescribed to pregnant women after discovery of a rare form of vaginal cancer in the daughters of women who took DES; however, that left between 5 million and 10 million pregnant women and babies who had been exposed to the drug.

Now, a National Cancer Institute (NCI) study has followed the daughters of mothers given DES while pregnant. They found that exposure to the drug while in utero is associated with many reproductive problems and an increased risk of certain cancers and pre-cancerous conditions. The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine involved more than 6,500 women (4,600 exposed and 1,900 unexposed and showed that the women exposed had an increased risk of 12 medical conditions.

“Our study carefully documents elevated risk for DES-exposed daughters for a host of medical problems—many of them also quite common in the general population,” said study author Robert N. Hoover, M.D., director of the Epidemiology and Biostatistics Program in NCI’s Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics.

Older Mothers, the Economy and the Fertility Class Divide

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With a photoshopped cover of a 63-year-old model striking a Demi Moore pose, New York Magazine’s "Parents of a Certain Age" article raised important points and set off a national debate over when is a woman too old to have children.

Unfortunately, in today’s economic and social climate, when many women are ready to be mothers, their bodies are not as young and fertile anymore. U.S. births fell from 4.37 million in 2007 to 4.01 million in 2010, and from 2007 to 2010, the U.S. total fertility rate fell 10 percent — to below two births per woman. However, Americans still believe that two or more children is ideal, according to a new study, “The Sustainable Demographic Dividend: What Do Marriage & Fertility Have To Do With the Economy?"

The study found that among developed countries, over the next two decades, the United States will be one of the only countries to maintain fertility levels close to the replacement level of 2.1 — but only if the U.S. economy does not stagnate or fall back into recession. “Even though couples and women are having fewer children today because of the fallout associated with the recession, most Americans of childbearing age think that having two or more children is ideal,” said Dr. Sam Sturgeon, director of research for Demographic Intelligence, LLC, a provider of U.S. birth forecasts and U.S. fertility analytics for companies.

'DES Daughters' Prone to Cancer, Fertility Woes

AFP,  Oct 5, 2011

Women whose mothers took a synthetic estrogen called DES before it was discontinued in 1971 have been found to suffer from a variety of fertility problems and cancers, according to a major new study. The study appearing in the New England Journal of Medicine examines the daughters of females exposed in the womb to diethylstilbestrol (DES), which was prescribed in the mistaken belief it could reduce certain complications of pregnancy.

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FDA Adds Fertility Risk Warning to Label for the Cancer Drug Avastin

Wall Street Journal,  Oct 5, 2011

The FDA has added a new warning about the risk of "ovarian failure" to the label for the cancer drug Avastin, and it recommended doctors tell women of child-bearing age before they start treatment about the possibility that Avastin can cause ovaries to stop releasing eggs regularly. Avastin is approved to treat certain types of lung, brain, kidney, colon and breast cancers. However, in the U.S., the company is fighting to keep the FDA from revoking the approval for breast cancer. The label update announced Tuesday is separate from that pending decision.

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How Declining Birth Rates Hurt Global Economies

NPR,  Oct 3, 2011

Around the world, there are more aging people and fewer young people to take care of them. A new study about the trend suggests this demographic shift could drag down the global economy. The report is called "The Sustainable Demographic Dividend." Co-author Phillip Longman, a senior research fellow with the New America Foundation, talks to Lynn Neary about the study.

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Female Fertility Tone Hits a Flat Note

ABC Science,  Oct 3, 2011

In a study focusing purely on the way women talk over the course of a month, researchers found that the female voice is not a reliable predictor of ovulation. Those results support the theory that, in our species, women tend to conceal the timing of their fertility so that men will be more likely to stick with them for the long haul.

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Chemo Impacts Female Fertility More than Thought

San Francisco Chronicle,  Sept 12, 2011
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The risk of infertility from cancer treatment may be much higher than doctors and patients realize, and almost all women diagnosed in their 20s and 30s who want children someday should be given the option of freezing their eggs or embryos, Bay Area fertility experts say.

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Mystery of Female Orgasm Continues to Baffle Scientists

International Business Times,  Sept 7, 2011
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There have been many attempts to explain the evolutionary mystery of female orgasm. One, suggested by Desmond Morris in his 1967 popular-science book "The Naked Ape," was that the female orgasm evolved to encourage physical intimacy with a male partner and helps reinforce the pair bond. Other theories are based on the idea that the female orgasm might increase fertility. For example, a 30 percent reduction in size of the vagina could help clench onto the penis which would make it more stimulating for the male.

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Chemotherapy Has Greater Effect on Women's Fertility than Previously Thought

Examiner.com,  Aug 24, 2011

Women who undergo chemotherapy may suffer more damage to their reproductive health than previously believed. That’s the suggestion of a new study conducted by researchers from the Univeristy of California, San Franciso and published online in the journal Cancer. The researchers found chemotherapy essentially narrows a woman’s reproductive window by causing a range of damage to the ovaries, even if her menses resume after treatment.

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Birds, Bees and Infertility

The Washington Post,  Aug 19, 2011
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Creating a video with a woman dressed as a bird and a man dressed as, yes, a bee — rapping, no less, about their inability to conceive — was a bit of risky venture. But that’s just what the pharmaceutical company EMD Serono, maker of a fertility drug called Gonal-f, has done. The video, “Early Bird Catches the Sperm” and posted on the Facebook page “Birds & Bees: The Real Story,” is meant to raise awareness and to encourage couples having difficulty conceiving to consult a reproductive endocrinologist.

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