Study finds regional differences in PCOS symptoms

A recent study found that women living in Alabama with the hormone disorder, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), often showed different symptoms than women with PCOS living in California.

The study was published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism and led by a team of researchers from The Endocrine Society. For their investigation, scientists set out to determine the geo-epidemiologic differences of PCOS, a hormonal disorder that commonly causes infertility. To do this, researchers compared data from 1,620 Black and white women diagnosed with PCOS in Alabama and California.

The data indicated that women experienced different symptoms of PCOS and met different criteria for the diagnosis depending on where they lived. According to researchers, to be diagnosed with PCOS a patient must meet at least two out of three symptoms, including androgen excess, which is an excess in male sex hormones, ovulatory dysfunction, and polycystic ovaries.

According to the study, women with PCOS in Alabama were more likely to have excessive hair growth and insulin resistance compared to women in California, who were more likely to have higher levels of testosterone.

For the most part, the research suggested that symptoms among Black and white women were similar. However, the data suggested that the average body mass index (BMI) of Black women did not differ between locations, whereas the BMI of white women living in Alabama was higher than white women in California.

“Our study found geographical differences in PCOS in black and white women, suggesting there are both genetic and environmental influences on how this disease manifests,” said Margareta Pisarska, MD, of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, California. “Ongoing research is needed to identify modifiable risk factors for PCOS that may be race and ethnicity-specific to bring precision medicine to the management of this disease.”

For future research, the Pisarska and her colleagues plan to conduct further studies on the differences in PCOS symptoms between races, controlling for geo-epidemiologic differences. In addition, they plan to investigate the factors that drive differences in PCOS symptoms between region and race to better personize treatment.