Iron metabolism and the polycystic ovary syndrome

Trends Endocrinol Metab. 2012 Oct;23(10):509-15. doi: 10.1016/j.tem.2012.04.003. Epub 2012 May 10.


The polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is associated with insulin resistance and abnormal glucose tolerance. Iron overload may lead also to insulin resistance and diabetes. Serum ferritin levels are increased in PCOS, especially when glucose tolerance is abnormal, suggesting mild iron overload. Factors contributing to potential iron overload in PCOS include the iron sparing effect of chronic menstrual dysfunction, insulin resistance, and a decrease in hepcidin leading to increased iron absorption. Enhancement of erythropoiesis by androgen excess is unlikely, because soluble transferrin receptor levels are not increased in PCOS. Future venues of research should address the long-term effects of PCOS treatment on iron overload and, conversely, the possible effects of iron lowering strategies on the glucose tolerance of patients with PCOS.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Ferritins / metabolism
  • Glucose Intolerance / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Insulin Resistance / genetics
  • Insulin Resistance / physiology
  • Iron / metabolism*
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome / metabolism*


  • Ferritins
  • Iron