BACKGROUND Oxidative stress might be associated with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), but relatively small studies published to date do not permit reaching a definitive conclusion. We aimed at conducting a systematic review and meta-analysis of studies evaluating circulating markers of oxidative stress in patients with PCOS. METHODS We conducted a systematic review of studies reporting circulating markers of oxidative stress in women with PCOS and controls published up to June 2012, using Entrez PubMed and EMBASE online facilities. Meta-analysis calculated standardized mean differences (SMDs) and 95% confidence intervals (95CI). RESULTS From 1633 potential studies identified electronically, 68 studies, including 4933 PCOS patients and 3671 controls, were selected. For each of nine circulating markers of oxidative stress, an individual meta-analysis was conducted. Compared with control women, patients with PCOS presented higher circulating concentrations of homocysteine (23% increase, SMD 0.6, 95CI, 0.4-0.8), malondialdehyde (47% increase, SMD 1.9, 95CI 1.2-2.6) and asymmetric dimethylarginine (36% increase, SMD 1.1, 95CI 0.6-1.6), and increased superoxide dismutase activity (34% increase, SMD 1.0, 95CI 0.5-1.4) and decreased glutathione levels (50% decrease, SMD -3.7, 95CI -6.2 to -1.2) and paraoxonase-1 activity (32% decrease, SMD -0.9, 95CI -1.3 to -0.4). Similar results were found when restricting the analyses to studies in which patients and controls were matched for age and body mass index. CONCLUSIONS Circulating markers of oxidative stress are abnormal in women with PCOS independent of weight excess. This finding suggests that oxidative stress may participate in the pathophysiology of this common disorder.