PCOS commonly includes menstrual irregularities, infertility, hirsutism and acne, and affects 5-10 per cent of Australian women in the reproductive age group and up to 30 per cent of obese women.
Professor Robert Norman and his co-authors from the Research Centre for Reproductive Health at The University of Adelaide, examined the case records of 660 women attending a reproductive endocrine clinic at the Adelaide University Research Centre for treatment of infertility or features of PCOS.
In the 372 of these women in whom PCOS was confirmed, four per cent had diabetes mellitus (DM), 15.6 per cent had impaired glucose tolerance (IGT), and 80.4 per cent had normal glucose tolerance (GT).
All but one of the 73 who had either DM or IGT were overweight or obese, and 44 per cent had a family history of diabetes.
"The prevalence of glucose intolerance abnormalities is high in women with PCOS, especially in older women and those with abdominal obesity and a family history of diabetes," Prof Norman says.
In a related editorial in the Journal, Prof Helena Teede, Director of Research at Jean Hailes Foundation and Head Diabetes at Southern Health in Melbourne, and her co-author, Assoc Prof Bronwyn Stuckey, a physician at the Department of Endocrinology and Diabetes at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital in Perth, say a greater understanding of appropriate screening for PCOS, long-term risks, and effective interventions is urgently needed.
"Prevention and treatment strategies should also be more aggressively pursued in these higher risk subgroups." Prof Teede adds that realistic and achievable changes in lifestyle through sustainable multidisciplinary approaches with realistic goals (5-10 per cent loss of weight) can significantly contribute to treatment of PCOS and the prevention of diabetes in women with PCOS.