Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease in polycystic ovary syndrome: what are the risks and can they be reduced?

Diabet Med. 2010 May;27(5):498-515. doi: 10.1111/j.1464-5491.2010.02994.x.


Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a risk factor for Type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) and cardiovascular disease (CVD), but these risks are poorly defined. This study aimed to evaluate the evidence for these risks and whether screening and risk reduction are feasible. Medline reviews and data quality analysis were used using standard tools. Results showed that (i) polycystic ovary syndrome is a risk factor forT2DM but the magnitude of risk is uncertain, (ii) fasting plasma glucose is an inadequate screening test forT2DM in this population and the oral glucose tolerance test is superior, (iii) the identification of women with PCOS for diabetes screening is constrained by current diagnostic criteria for PCOS; however, women with oligomenorrhoea and those with diagnosed PCOS and obesity or a family history of T2DM are at highest risk, (iv) risk factors for T2DM are improved by weight loss interventions and by metformin. However, no studies have determined whether T2DM incidence is reduced, (v) polycystic ovary syndrome is associated with cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factors but data on CVD incidence are weak, (vi) risk factors for CVD are improved by the same interventions and statins and (vi) no studies have evaluated whether CVD incidence is reduced. While PCOS has important metabolic associations, and short-term interventions reduce risk factors for T2DM and CVD, data on prevalence and incidence of T2DM and particularly CVD are poor. There is a need for a clear definition of PCOS, for diabetes screening protocols and for long-term studies to determine whether risks can be reduced.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Blood Glucose / analysis
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / complications*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / prevention & control*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / complications*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / diagnosis
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / epidemiology
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / prevention & control*
  • Fasting
  • Female
  • Glucose Tolerance Test
  • Humans
  • Hypoglycemic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Incidence
  • Mass Screening / methods
  • Metformin / therapeutic use
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome / complications*
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors
  • Weight Loss


  • Blood Glucose
  • Hypoglycemic Agents
  • Metformin