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J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2005 May;90(5):2545-9. Epub 2005 Feb 22.

Phenotypic variation in hyperandrogenic women influences the findings of abnormal metabolic and cardiovascular risk parameters.

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  • 1Department of Clinical Medicine, University of Palermo, Italy.


In hyperandrogenic women, several phenotypes may be observed. This includes women with classic polycystic ovary syndrome (C-PCOS), those with ovulatory (OV) PCOS, and women with idiopathic hyperandrogenism (IHA), which occurs in women with normal ovaries. Where other causes have been excluded, we categorized 290 hyperandrogenic women who were seen consecutively for this complaint between 1993 and 2004 into these three subgroups. The aim was to compare the prevalence of obesity, insulin resistance, and dyslipidemia as well as increases in C-reactive protein and homocysteine in these different phenotypes with age-matched ovulatory controls of normal weight (n = 85) and others matched for body mass index (BMI) with women with C-PCOS (n = 42). Although BMI affected fasting serum insulin and the Quantitative Insulin-Sensitivity Check Index, these markers of insulin resistance were greatest in C-PCOS (n = 204), followed by OV-PCOS (n = 50) and then IHA (n = 33). Androgen levels were similar in OV-PCOS and IHA but were higher in C-PCOS, whereas gonadotropins were similar in all groups. Lipid abnormalities were highest in C-PCOS and OV-PCOS and were normal in IHA. C-reactive protein was elevated in C-PCOS and OV-PCOS but not IHA. Homocysteine was elevated only in C-PCOS. Overall, the prevalence of obesity (BMI > 30) was 29% in C-PCOS, 8% in OV-PCOS, and 15% in IHA and insulin resistance (Quantitative Insulin-Sensitivity Check Index < 0.33) was 68% in C-PCOS, 36% in OV-PCOS, and 26% in IHA. The prevalence of having at least one elevated cardiovascular risk marker was 45% in C-PCOS 38% in OV-PCOS and was not increased on IHA (6%). These results suggest that among hyperandrogenic women the prevalence of abnormal metabolic and cardiovascular risk parameters is greatest in C-PCOS, followed by OV-PCOS and then women with IHA. Moreover, in that in OV-PCOS and IHA, ages and weights were similar yet the prevalence of metabolic and cardiovascular risk was greater in OV-PCOS, the finding of polycystic ovaries may be a significant modifying factor.

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