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Polycystic Ovary Syndrome More Prevalent in Overweight Women

Overweight and obese Spanish women appear five times as likely as lean women to have polycystic ovary syndrome, a condition that decreases fertility and contributes to other// illnesses, according to an article in the October 23 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

Polycystic ovary syndrome occurs when the ovaries malfunction and levels of the sex hormone androgen are unusually high. Symptoms may include irregular or no menstrual periods, acne and excess hair growth. In addition to its implications for reproductive health, polycystic ovary syndrome is also associated with sleep apnea, poor quality of life and an increased risk for diabetes and cardiovascular disease, according to background information in the article. Although more than half of patients with polycystic ovary syndrome are obese, the prevalence of the condition in overweight or obese women is unknown.

Francisco álvarez-Blasco, M.D., and colleagues at Hospital Universitario Ramón y Cajal, Madrid, Spain, evaluated 113 consecutive women who visited one hospital for weight loss treatment between May 2002 and December 2005. The women were diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome based on whether their ovaries were releasing eggs regularly, tests to assess the level of androgen in their blood and whether other diagnoses could be ruled out.

Of the 113 women, 32 (28.3 percent) were diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome, compared with the established rates of 6.5 percent among all women and 5.5 percent among lean women. “The prevalence of polycystic ovary syndrome was not statistically different when considering the degree of obesity, as classified according to the guidelines published by the National Institutes of Health,” the authors write. Patients with the syndrome tended to be younger and were more likely to also have insulin resistance, which occurs when the body has difficulty using the insulin it produces to turn glucose into
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