New research has found for the first time that women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) have a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes (T2D) and are diagnosed at an earlier age with the condition.
According to the Hormone Health Network, an estimated 5 million to 6 million women in the United States have PCOS, making it one of the most common endocrine conditions in women of childbearing age.
Women with the condition produce slightly higher than average amounts of testosterone and other androgen hormones, which can contribute to irregular or absent menstrual periods, infertility, weight gain, acne or excess hair on the face and body.
Women who have PCOS also face a higher risk of developing other health problems.
"Many women with PCOS are obese, but the risk for the development of diabetes in PCOS is unknown," explained one of the study's authors, Dorte Glintborg, from the Odense University Hospital in Denmark.
To research a potential link between PCOS and the risk of type 2 diabetes development, the team studied two populations with PCOS. All subjects were pre-menopausal Danish women with a diagnosis of PCOS, with one group of data taken from the National Patient Register (18,477 women) and another from a local sub-group of 1,162 women who were examined at Odense University Hospital in Denmark.
The team tested the local participants for insulin and glucose levels, cholesterol, triglycerides and testosterone levels.
The women with PCOS were then compared with other females of a similar age who did not have PCOS, nor a previous diagnosis of T2D.
The team found that women with PCOS were four times more likely to develop T2D compared to their counterparts who did not have the condition.
In addition, the average age for women with PCOS to receive a diagnosis of T2D was 31 years. However, the average age for women without PCOS to receive a diagnosis of T2D was 35 years.
Researchers also examined other factors related to the development of T2D in PCOS such as age, body mass index (BMI), number of pregnancies and prescriptions for oral contraceptives.
The results showed that body mass index, insulin and glucose levels, and triglycerides were also positively associated with development of T2D, however a higher number of births were negatively associated with development of T2D.
The authors noted further research is needed to look at the effect of different factors on the risk of T2D development in PCOS, however they added that increasing age should not be considered a risk factor because most cases of diabetes in this study were found before the age of 40.
Glintborg also commented that, "The increased risk of developing T2D in PCOS is an important finding. Diabetes may develop at a young age and screening for diabetes is important, especially in women who are obese and have PCOS."
The findings can be found in the Endocrine Society's Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.