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Health Ministry Declines to Check Women Exposed to Des

A committee of experts believes evidence that the drug diethyl stilboestol (DES) can cause cancer is inconclusive and has recommended that the Health Ministry not conduct massive checks among young women whose mothers were given the synthetic hormone 20 or 30 years ago to help them carry out their pregnancies. Accordingly, Health Minister Eliezer Shostak today rejected a Knesset member’s request that nation-wide health checks be initiated.

Yair Tzaban, a Labor Alignment MK, charged last week that the Health Ministry acted in bad faith by failing to follow up possible effects of the drug on female children born in the 1950s and 1960s. He said the Ministry had information on the possible hazards of the drug for more than two years but took no proper action. It set up an experts committee only after the matter was raised in the press, he said.

But Prof. Yosef Shenkar who headed the committee, said at a press conference today that it has been established so far that the chances of cancer developing in the offspring of women given the drug are minimal. “Until 1979 there was only one case of a cancerous growth in a young woman whose mother probably was exposed to DES during pregnancy,” he said.

However, the Director General of the Health Ministry, Baruch Modan, said the Ministry would establish a permanent body to follow up possible affects of the drug.

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