Fine particulate matter and polycystic ovarian morphology

Environ Health. 2022 Feb 18;21(1):26. doi: 10.1186/s12940-022-00835-1.


Background: Polycystic ovary morphology (PCOM) is an ultrasonographic finding that can be present in women with ovulatory disorder and oligomenorrhea due to hypothalamic, pituitary, and ovarian dysfunction. While air pollution has emerged as a possible disrupter of hormone homeostasis, limited research has been conducted on the association between air pollution and PCOM.

Methods: We conducted a longitudinal cohort study using electronic medical records data of 5,492 women with normal ovaries at the first ultrasound that underwent a repeated pelvic ultrasound examination during the study period (2004-2016) at Boston Medical Center. Machine learning text algorithms classified PCOM by ultrasound. We used geocoded home address to determine the ambient annual average PM2.5 exposures and categorized into tertiles of exposure. We used Cox Proportional Hazards models on complete data (n = 3,994), adjusting for covariates, and additionally stratified by race/ethnicity and body mass index (BMI).

Results: Cumulative exposure to PM2.5 during the study ranged from 4.9 to 17.5 µg/m3 (mean = 10.0 μg/m3). On average, women were 31 years old and 58% were Black/African American. Hazard ratios and 95% confidence intervals (CI) comparing the second and third PM2.5 exposure tertile vs. the reference tertile were 1.12 (0.88, 1.43) and 0.89 (0.62, 1.28), respectively. No appreciable differences were observed across race/ethnicity. Among women with BMI ≥ 30 kg/m2, we observed weak inverse associations with PCOM for the second (HR: 0.93, 95% CI: 0.66, 1.33) and third tertiles (HR: 0.89, 95% CI: 0.50, 1.57).

Conclusions: In this study of reproductive-aged women, we observed little association between PM2.5 concentrations and PCOM incidence. No dose response relationships were observed nor were estimates appreciably different across race/ethnicity within this clinically sourced cohort.

Keywords: Air pollution; Electronic medical records; Fine particulate matter; Polycystic ovary morphology (PCOM).

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Air Pollutants* / toxicity
  • Air Pollution* / statistics & numerical data
  • Cohort Studies
  • Environmental Exposure / analysis
  • Environmental Exposure / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Particulate Matter / toxicity
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome* / diagnostic imaging
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome* / epidemiology


  • Air Pollutants
  • Particulate Matter