The epidemiology of polycystic ovary syndrome. Prevalence and associated disease risks

Endocrinol Metab Clin North Am. 1999 Jun;28(2):247-63. doi: 10.1016/s0889-8529(05)70069-4.


Polycystic ovary syndrome is a common problem affecting approximately 5% of women of reproductive age when defined by clinical features of anovulation and hyperandrogenism. Metabolic derangements associated with this condition may predispose to a range of diseases with attendant morbidity and mortality risks. In general, available data support significantly increased rates of type II diabetes mellitus, dyslipidemia, and endometrial cancer in PCOS that are not completely explained by obesity; data also suggest that rates of hypertension, gestational diabetes, and pregnancy-induced hypertension may likewise be increased, although the extent to which obesity mediates these risks is not clear. The increased prevalence of several cardiovascular risk factors in PCOS and limited cross-sectional data suggest that cardiovascular disease should be more likely in PCOS, but prospective data are lacking to confirm this supposition. Limited data have suggested an association between PCOS and ovarian cancer risk and require further study. The present data do not support an increased risk for breast cancer in this condition. Long-term prospective data are clearly needed to better delineate the nature and magnitude of disease risks associated with PCOS, with appropriate adjustment for associated obesity. Such information is a necessary background for understanding the role of established and emerging PCOS therapies, including oral contraceptives, intermittent progesterone, ovulation induction agents, and insulin sensitizers, in modifying such risks. In the meantime, close follow-up of women with PCOS and encouragement of lifestyle practices likely to reduce disease risks, such as regular exercise and weight control, should be standard practice.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cardiovascular Diseases / etiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / etiology
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome / complications*
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome / epidemiology*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications
  • Risk Factors