Cardiovascular disease in women with polycystic ovary syndrome at long-term follow-up: a retrospective cohort study


Dr Sarah Wild Health Care Research Unit, Mailpoint 805, Level B, South Academic Block, Southampton General Hospital, Southampton SO16 6YD, UK. Fax: +44 (0)2380 796529; E-mail:



Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is associated with higher prevalence of cardiovascular risk factors but the relative prevalence of cardiovascular disease in women with PCOS has not previously been reported. We have compared cardiovascular mortality and morbidity in middle-aged women previously diagnosed with PCOS and age-matched control women.


A retrospective cohort study of women diagnosed with PCOS in the United Kingdom before 1979.


Seventy cohort members died before 31 March 1999. Morbidity data were collected from 319 women with PCOS and 1060 age-matched control women. Sixty-one women with PCOS and 63 control women attended a clinical examination.


Data were collected from death certificates, general practitioners' records and questionnaires with measurement of cardiovascular risk factors in a subsample of questionnaire respondents.


All-cause and cardiovascular mortality in the cohort were similar to women in the general population (standardized mortality ratios (95% CI): 93 (72–117) and 78 (45–124), respectively). Women with PCOS had higher levels of several cardiovascular risk factors: diabetes (P = 0.002) hypertension (P = 0.04), hypercholesterolaemia (P < 0.001), hypertriglyceridaemia (P = 0.02) and increased waist:hip ratio (P = 0.004). After adjustment for BMI, odds ratios (OR) were 2.2 (0.9–5.2) for diabetes, 1.4 (0.9–2.0) for hypertension and 3.2 (1.7–6.0) for hypercholesterolaemia. A history of coronary heart disease (CHD) was not significantly more common in women with PCOS (crude OR (95%CI) 1.5 (0.7–2.9)) but the crude OR for cerebrovascular disease was 2.8 (1.1–7.1).


At long-term follow-up, a history of nonfatal cerebrovascular disease and cardiovascular risk factors including diabetes are more prevalent among women with polycystic ovary syndrome. Morbidity and mortality from of coronary heart disease among women with polycystic ovary syndrome is not as high as previously predicted. This finding challenges our understanding of the aetiology of coronary heart disease in women.