PCOS is one of the most common disorders of premenopausal women, affecting nearly 10 percent of this population. It is associated with elevated levels of androgens, as well as irregular menstrual periods and reproductive problems. Other symptoms of PCOS include obesity, excess hair on the face and body, male-pattern baldness and severe, chronic acne.
Many women with PCOS are insulin-resistant, a condition that raises the level of insulin circulating in the body and is a precursor to type 2 diabetes. In fact, women with PCOS have seven times the risk of other women for developing adult-onset diabetes, which in turn greatly increases their chance of having cardiovascular disease, hypertension, stroke and kidney problems. Dunaif's research also has shown that PCOS is an important risk factor for the adult form of diabetes in teenaged girls.
There is likely an increased risk for breast cancer -- another condition reported to be associated with insulin resistance -- in women with PCOS, Dunaif said. Similarly, there are limited data to suggest that girls at risk for PCOS have a history of intrauterine growth retardation, another finding associated with insulin resistance, she said.
Dunaif and colleagues have shown that PCOS has a substantial negative impact on quality of life because of the disorder's multisystem conditions. In addition, because obesity and type 2 diabetes have now reached epidemic proportions in the United States, and cardiovascular disease remains the leading cause of death in women, PCOS plays a key role in the foremost causes of death and disability in American women.
Moreover, Dunaif and co-investigators have found that the brothers as well as the sisters of women with PCOS have metabolic and hormonal abnormalities. They have identified a region on chromosome 19 -- near the insulin receptor gene -- that appears to contain a major gene for PCOS
Contact: Elizabeth Crown