Women With PCOS Also Have Higher Rates Of Diabetes

January 28, 1999

HERSHEY, PA -- A new study shows that women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) have a much higher risk for impaired glucose tolerance levels which is a risk factor for diabetes. This study, which looks at 254 women, is the largest ever of its kind and shows the number of undiagnosed cases of diabetes among PCOS women is 7.5 percent compared to just 1 percent for the rest of the population.

"This study included 110 PCOS women from 1983-1991 at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine and 144 PCOS women from 1992-1998 Penn State's College of Medicine," explains Richard Legro, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Penn State's College of Medicine. "It was an ethnically diverse group from New York and a primarily rural, Caucasian population from central Pennsylvania. However, both groups showed virtually the same rates of glucose tolerance and diabetes. This shows that ethnicity or environment were probably minor factors."

Legro and his colleagues' study titled, "Prevalence and Predictors of Risk for Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus and Impaired Glucose Tolerance in Polycystic Ovary Syndrome: A Prospective, Controlled Study in 254 Affected Women," is published in the January issue of the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.

Legro estimates five to 10 percent of women suffer from this hormonal disorder. PCOS can manifest itself in women by causing irregular menstrual cycles, increased body and facial hair and infertility.

Legro and his team also had a control group of 80 women at Penn State. The study shows that 7.8 percent of women in the control group were glucose intolerant and just one percent had undiagnosed diabetes. This compares to more than 31 percent of the PCOS women with glucose intolerance and 7.5 percent with undiagnosed diabetes.

"We know that PCOS women are insulin resistant and are at a higher risk for glucose intolerance. Glucose intolerance is a predictor for diabetes. It is also associated with other metabolic abnormalities such as lipid abnormalities are risk factors for heart disease," says Legro.

Previous studies have shown that only obese PCOS women had glucose intolerance. This study now shows that although obesity and age substantially increase risk of glucose intolerance, diabetes and glucose intolerance also occurs in young nonobese PCOS women.
Penn State's College of Medicine conducts some of the most extensive research on PCOS anywhere in the world. A number of related studies are going on at this time. Legro has established a web site for families to learn more about the disease and to help recruit women for the studies. The web site is located at http://www.collmed.psu.edu/obgyn.pcos.htm or you can call 1-800-585-9585.

This research was supported by The National Center for Infertility Research, the National Institutes of Health, The American Diabetes Association and the CROWN Foundation.

Penn State

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