Prevalence of polycystic ovary syndrome in adolescents

Fertil Steril. 2013 Aug;100(2):470-7. doi: 10.1016/j.fertnstert.2013.04.001. Epub 2013 Jun 5.


Objective: To investigate the prevalence of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) in adolescents and its association with obesity.

Design: Cross-sectional study using electronic medical records.

Setting: Not applicable.

Patient(s): Adolescents aged 15-19 years (n = 137,502).

Intervention(s): None.

Main outcome measure(s): PCOS diagnosed or defined according to National Institutes of Health (NIH) criteria.

Result(s): The prevalence of a confirmed diagnosis of PCOS was 0.56%, which increased to 1.14% when undiagnosed cases with documented symptoms qualifying for PCOS according to NIH criteria were included. Compared with normal/underweight girls, the odds ratios (OR and 95% confidence interval [CI]) for confirmed PCOS diagnosis were 3.85 (3.04-4.88), 10.25 (8.16-12.84), and 23.10 (18.66-28.61) for overweight, moderately obese, and extremely obese adolescents, respectively, after adjusting for potential confounders. When adolescents with two or more supportive diagnoses were included (diagnosed and undiagnosed PCOS-NIH), the ORs (95% CI) for PCOS-NIH by weight class were significantly attenuated to 2.95 (2.53-3.44), 6.73 (5.78-7.83), and 14.65 (12.73-16.86) for overweight, moderately obese, and extremely obese adolescents, respectively.

Conclusion(s): Overweight and obesity were associated with higher odds of PCOS in adolescents. Studies based solely on diagnosis codes may underestimate the prevalence of PCOS and overestimate the magnitude of the association between obesity and PCOS.

Keywords: Adolescence; body weight; childhood; epidemiology; obesity; polycystic ovary syndrome.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Body Weight / physiology
  • Cohort Studies
  • Contraceptives, Oral / therapeutic use
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Obesity / complications
  • Obesity / epidemiology
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome / complications
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome / epidemiology*
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome / ethnology
  • Prevalence
  • Social Class
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Young Adult


  • Contraceptives, Oral