Women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) develop metabolic syndrome earlier than women without the condition, likely putting them at a higher risk of developing diabetes and cardiovascular disease, according to a new study.

PCOS raises early risk of Diabetes

PCOS is a hormonal disorder that can affect a women's periods, making them infrequent, irregular or prolonged, and can also make it difficult to get pregnant. It affects one in 10 women of childbearing age.

The findings showed that women with PCOS developed metabolic syndrome nearly three years earlier than women without the condition, even after accounting for differences in smoking, education, physical activity and body size.

Increased body size was also associated with greater risk of metabolic syndrome.

“Although our study suggests that PCOS predicts earlier onset of metabolic syndrome independent of body size, weight is still a substantial risk factor for poor health outcomes,” said lead author Mia (Qing) Peng, a doctoral student at the University of Michigan (U-M).

“This means that regardless of whether you have PCOS or not, maintaining a healthy weight is very important, but maintaining a healthy weight may be even more relevant for women with polycystic ovary syndrome,” Peng added.

For the study, published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, the team followed nearly 500 women for more than 20 years to observe new cases of metabolic syndrome.

They identified women with PCOS-like status based on their history of irregular menstrual cycles, high free-androgen index and high levels of anti-mullerian hormone.

“Given that metabolic syndrome is a risk factor for health outcomes such as heart attack, heart failure and diabetes, our data suggests that women with PCOS should be monitored more closely, and earlier in their life, for these major health outcomes, “the researchers said.