Does ethnicity influence the prevalence of adrenal hyperandrogenism and insulin resistance in polycystic ovary syndrome?

Am J Obstet Gynecol. 1992 Dec;167(6):1807-12. doi: 10.1016/0002-9378(92)91779-a.


Objective: Our purpose was to determine the prevalence of adrenal hyperandrogenism and insulin resistance in patients with hyperandrogenic chronic anovulation, also called polycystic ovary syndrome, living in the United States, Italy, and Japan.

Study design: Seventy-five women with polycystic ovary syndrome, 25 each from the United States, Italy, and Japan, and 10 ovulatory controls were studied. Hirsutism, obesity, and the presence of cystic ovaries were assessed, as were blood levels for estrogen, luteinizing hormone, testosterone, adrenal androgens, and insulin. All patients received an insulin tolerance test to assess insulin resistance.

Results: Women from Japan were less obese (p < 0.05) and did not have hirsutism, although the percentage of cystic ovaries (68% to 80%) was comparable. Serum luteinizing hormone, testosterone, and estradiol were similar, but levels of 3 alpha-androstanediol glucuronide, which was elevated in women from the United States and Italy, was normal in women from Japan. The adrenal androgens, dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate and 11 beta-hydroxyandrostenedione were elevated in 48% to 64% of the patients and by a similar percentage in the three groups. Fasting insulin was elevated in all groups, but was significantly higher in women from the United States and Italy compared with women from Japan (p < 0.05). However, insulin resistance as assessed by dissociation constant of insulin tolerance test values was significantly elevated but similar in the three groups and occurred in 68% to 76% of patients.

Conclusion: In polycystic ovary syndrome, although obesity and hirsutism vary according to dietary, genetic, and environmental factors, the prevalence of adrenal androgen excess and insulin resistance appear to be fairly uniform. These results suggest that these factors may be involved in the pathophysiologic features of the disorder.

MeSH terms

  • Adrenal Gland Diseases / blood*
  • Adrenal Gland Diseases / epidemiology
  • Adult
  • Androgens / blood*
  • Anovulation / etiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Insulin Resistance*
  • Italy
  • Japan
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome / complications*
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome / ethnology
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome / physiopathology
  • Prevalence
  • Racial Groups*
  • United States


  • Androgens