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Lansing, Michigan

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Testimony to Begin in Lawsuit Over Synthetic Estrogen Linked to Breast Cancer

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Testimony is about to begin in a lawsuit by four sisters who say that they suffered from breast cancer because of the drug that their mother took during pregnancy. The drug DES, which is a synthetic estrogen, was prescribed in the 1950s to millions of pregnant women to prevent miscarriages, premature births and other problems. Studies later found that the drug did nothing to prevent miscarriages, but may be linked to health problems in the children of women who took DES.

The Melnick sisters argue that it is no coincidence that they all suffered bouts of breast cancer in their 40s. Their fifth sister did not develop breast cancer in her 40s. They allege that this is because although their mother took DES during both of her pregnancies with them, she did not with their last sister. A total of 51 women across the country have filed lawsuits with similar claims.

Eli Lilly, a maker of the drug, argues that their is no solid scientific evidence to prove that the women's breast cancer was caused by their mothers' use of DES. The Melnick sisters' mother is now dead and so is her doctor, so there is also no absolute proof that she took the drug during pregnancy. However, DES was taken off of the market when it was discovered that it was linked to a rare form of vaginal cancer in women whose mothers took it during pregnancy. The Melnick sisters underwent treatments ranging from chemotherapy, lump removal therapy, full mastectomy, and radiation and were diagnosed between 1997 and 2003.