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A drug frequently used to avoid miscarriage can increase offspring’s cancer risk decades later

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Kamal S. has been Journalist and Writer for Business, Hardware and Gadgets at Revyuh.com since 2018. He deals with B2b, Funding, Blockchain, Law, IT security, privacy, surveillance, digital self-defense and network policy. As part of his studies of political science, sociology and law, he researched the impact of technology on human coexistence. Email: kamal (at) revyuh (dot) com

Researchers have discovered that early exposure to a drug used to prevent miscarriage appears to increase the incidence of cancer in the offspring, particularly colorectal cancer, pancreatic cancer, and thyroid cancer.

17-hydroxyprogesterone caproate (17-OHPC) is a synthetic progestogen that was often used by women in the 1950s and 1960s and is still prescribed to women to help avoid preterm delivery today.

Progesterone promotes the growth of the womb during pregnancy and avoids early contractions, which can lead to miscarriage.

“Children who were born to women who received the drug during pregnancy have double the rate of cancer across their lifetime compared to children born to women who did not take this drug,” said the lead author of the study Caitlin C. Murphy.

“We have seen cancers like colorectal cancer, pancreatic cancer, thyroid cancer, and many others increasing in people born in and after the 1960s, and no one really knows why.”

Researchers looked at records from the Kaiser Foundation Health Plan on women who had prenatal treatment between June 1959 and June 1967, as well as the California Cancer Registry, which tracked cancer in offspring from 1959 to 2019.

Out of more than 18,751 live births, researchers found 1,008 cancer diagnoses were made in offspring ages 0 to 58 years. Additionally, a total of 234 offspring were exposed to 17-OHPC during pregnancy. Offspring exposed in the womb had cancer detected in adulthood more than twice as often as offspring not exposed to the drug — 65% of cancers occurred in adults younger than 50.

“Our findings suggest taking this drug during pregnancy can disrupt early development, which may increase risk of cancer decades later,” Murphy said “With this drug, we are seeing the effects of a synthetic hormone. Things that happened to us in the womb, or exposures in utero, are important risk factors for developing cancer many decades after we’re born.”

According to Murphy, a new randomized experiment demonstrates that consuming 17-OHPC has no benefit and does not lessen the risk of premature birth.

In October 2020, the US Food and Drug Administration proposed that this drug be taken off the market.

The findings were published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

Image Credit: iStock

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