PCOS-like characteristics not associated with increased type 2 diabetes risk, researchers say

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Characteristics of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) do not increase the risk of type 2 diabetes in overweight women without PCOS, according to new research.
It is well known that women with PCOS have greater insulin resistance, and therefore a heightened risk of type 2 diabetes, but research into the impact of PCOS symptoms, such as irregular menses and elevated concentration of androgen hormones, and how they increase diabetes risk in women without PCOS is less understood.
Scientists from the University of Michigan aimed to investigate these characteristics in overweight women with glucose intolerance. All of the women were aged 25 or older and had signed up to either the Diabetes Prevention Program or the Diabetes Outcomes Study. None of the women were treated with exogenous estrogen (estrogen taken as a treatment).
Irregular menses and androgen levels were observed and compared with the women’s diabetes risk over a 10-year period, as well as their risk of coronary artery calcification, a risk factor for coronary artery disease.
Elevations in these characteristics were associated with increased BMI, waist circumference and blood pressure, but not an increased likelihood of type 2 diabetes.
“We conclude that compared to midlife women who are already glucose intolerant and overweight, histories of [irregular menses] and relative elevations in androgens do not additionally increase risk or the burden of subclinical atherosclerosis,” said the researchers.
“While our report does not rule out that these conditions may identify women at risk in their younger years, it suggests that chronic disease burden in midlife women may be most effectively addressed through weight loss, metformin and the other diabetes prevention measures already known to be beneficial for all women at increased risk for diabetes.”
The findings appear in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.
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