Age of onset of polycystic ovarian syndrome in girls may be earlier than previously thought

J Pediatr Adolesc Gynecol. 2011 Feb;24(1):15-20. doi: 10.1016/j.jpag.2010.06.003.


Objectives: To study the age at diagnosis of polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) in a pediatric population. To compare risk factors involved in causing PCOS in preadolescent and adolescent girls. To review the current literature on the reported age of PCOS in girls.

Design: A retrospective chart review and systematic review of the literature.

Participants: Patients included 58 girls (age ≤ 18 yrs) with a diagnosis of PCOS based on the Rotterdam criteria. Girls were grouped as preadolescents (<13 yrs) or adolescents (13-18 yrs). Clinical and biochemical data were reviewed from the time of diagnosis.

Main outcome measures: Age at diagnosis. Differences in risk factors for PCOS (Ethnicity, obesity, family history of PCOS, birth weight, age at pubarche, thelarche and menarche, evidence of hyperandrogenism and/or insulin resistance) were compared between the two groups.

Results: There were 26% (15/58) preadolescent girls (9-12 yrs) vs 74% (43/58) adolescents (13-18 yrs). There was no significant difference between the two groups in ethnicity, BMI z-score, family history of maternal PCOS, birth weight, hyperandrogenism, or insulin resistance. Preadolescents with PCOS had significantly earlier onset of pubarche and thelarche than adolescents with PCOS, by 1.9 and 1.5 yrs, respectively (P = 0.018, 0.030). In addition to earlier puberty, PCOS developed 2.1 years sooner after thelarche in preadolescents than in adolescents. (P = 0.008) Preadolescents were significantly taller for age than adolescents (72nd % vs 43rd %) (P = 0.005). A review of the 28 studies published in the last 3 years that included PCOS patients with age <=18 yrs described only 6.4% (27/425) of pediatric subjects with age <13 yrs. Four were primarily pediatric studies that included patients under the age of 13 yrs, with 9.4% (12/127) of the patients <13 yrs.

Conclusion: Increased awareness of PCOS in young females is needed. PCOS may occur at a younger age in girls who develop early pubarche and thelarche. Therefore, the diagnosis and workup should be considered in young girls with risk factors suggestive of PCOS.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Age of Onset
  • Child
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome / diagnosis*
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome / etiology
  • Risk Factors