Polycystic Ovary Syndrome: Girls of Women with the Disease Are Five Times More Likely to Have It

According to a new Swedish study, girls whose mothers have polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) are five times more likely to suffer from this condition than others.

Mother and Daughter

Mother and Daughter

Polycystic ovary syndrome is a common hormonal disorder in which several follicles become blocked in the ovaries, in the immature phase. In addition to ovulation problems, irregular periods, and fertility problems, PCOS can cause overweight problems, acne, and hair problems due to higher than normal levels of testosterone and insulin.

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Concerned about the hereditary part of this syndrome, Swedish researchers examined the medical history of nearly 30,000 women and their mothers in a study published in the Journal Nature Medicine. The data showed that 3.4 percent of women born to mothers with PCOS were diagnosed with it, compared to only 0.6 percent of women whose mothers were not affected. In other words their risk is five times higher than those whose mothers did not have PCOS.

An excessive risk was also confirmed by the researchers during the medical follow-up of 35 Chilean women from birth to adulthood. Of the 21 women whose mothers had PCOS, 15 met the medical criteria for the presence of this syndrome. Only one of the mothers without PCOS had a daughter with the syndrome.

“Our work shows that girls of women with PCOS have an increased risk of developing this disease,” said Elisabet Stener-Victorin, who led the study and works at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm. It’s an underdiagnosed syndrome. Polycystic ovary syndrome is often discovered late during a desire for pregnancy because it causes ovulation problems, which the pill can hide for years.

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“It is very important that women with PCOS are diagnosed and treated, if possible by reducing androgen levels (the so-called male hormones), as this can affect their future children and grandchildren,” Elisabet Stener-Victorin told the Guardian.

In another series of experiments, the team identified a possible transgenerational transmission of PCOS. When pregnant rats received injections of testosterone at the end of their pregnancy to mimic PCOS, their rats showed symptoms similar to PCOS. This hormonal disorder has been passed down for up to three generations, indicating that high levels of male sex hormones in the uterus are an important factor in the transmission of PCOS. Four potentially responsible genes were identified. However, their functions have not yet been confirmed by other studies.

However, there is nothing to prevent young women whose mothers have had polycystic ovary syndrome from talking to their family doctor or gynecologist about the issue in order to detect it and manage it as quickly as possible through dietary or medication measures. Because, in addition to fertility problems, PCOS can lead to obesity and diabetes, with long-term health consequences.

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