Prenatal Diethylstilbestrol Exposure and Risk of Depression in Women and Men.

Although some previous studies have reported a link between prenatal DES exposure and mental illness, particularly depression, other studies have not shown this link. Using data from the National Cancer Institute DES Follow-up Study, we assessed the relationship between prenatal DES exposure and depression in women and men. Our main analyses included data from 3,888 DES-exposed and 1,179 unexposed women, in addition to 1,021 DES-exposed and 1,042 unexposed men. In women, a diagnosis of depression was based on data from the 1994 or 2011 questionnaire; in men, the diagnosis was based on data from the 2011 questionnaire. In addition to depression diagnoses self-reported on questionnaires, women and men who were known to have died by suicide also were classified as having had depression.

We found no overall link between prenatal DES exposure and depression in the adult men and women in our study. We found a potentially slightly increased risk of depression in women who were exposed very early in gestation. Also noted was a weak link in women and men exposed to a low cumulative prenatal dose of DES, but among men this was apparent only after accounting for other factors. Vaginal epithelial changes, considered a marker of DES sensitivity, were not linked to depression.