Exposure in utero to a drug used to prevent miscarriage can lead to an increased risk of developing cancer, according to researchers at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth Houston).
The study has recently been published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
The drug, 17α-hydroxyprogesterone caproate (17-OHPC), is a synthetic progestogen that was frequently used by women in the 1950s and 1960s, and is still prescribed to women today to help prevent preterm birth. Progesterone helps the womb grow during pregnancy and prevents a woman from having early contractions that may lead to miscarriage, according to a UT press release.
Researchers reviewed data from the Kaiser Foundation Health Plan on women who received prenatal care between June 1959 and June 1967, and the California Cancer Registry, which traced cancer in offspring through 2019.
Out of more than 18,751 live births, researchers discovered 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.