Objective Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), the most common endocrinopathy of young women, is characterized by androgen excess and is frequently associated with cardiovascular risk factors. However, it is unclear whether PCOS is a risk factor for atherosclerosis. We sought to determine in a multiethnic population-based sample whether women with PCOS have greater measures of subclinical atherosclerosis than women without PCOS.
Design Cross-sectional study of a nested cohort from the Dallas Heart Study (2000–2002).
Participants Women between the ages of 35 and 49 (n = 827). PCOS was defined by Rotterdam criteria. The normal control group had regular menses, total testosterone <2·78 nmol/l, no signs of hirsutism and no polycystic ovarian morphology by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
Measurements Subclinical atherosclerosis defined as coronary artery calcium (CAC) by computed tomography and abdominal aortic plaque by MRI.
Results The prevalence of PCOS in Dallas County was 19·6% (n = 144), and 8·0% (n = 56) had both oligomenorrhea and hyperandrogenism. Women with PCOS had higher body mass index, blood pressure, insulin and leptin than regularly cycling controls. Despite a greater prevalence of cardiovascular risk factors, women with PCOS did not have a greater prevalence of CAC > 10 Agatston units (PCOS 5%, controls 6·3%, P = 0·74) or abdominal aortic plaque (PCOS 25·8%, controls 34·4%, P = 0·13) than controls.
Conclusions In a large, multiethnic, population-based sample of premenopausal women, PCOS, defined by Rotterdam criteria, was not associated with a higher prevalence of coronary artery calcium or abdominal aortic plaque.