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A Two-fold Increase Risk of Death in Mothers Who Have a Child with PCOS

Jun 13, 2014

A daughter’s poor health may lead to an increased risk in their parent’s health…. 

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is a common hormonal disorder that affects women of reproductive age. These women often suffer from irregular ovarian functions, abnormal menstrual periods, excess androgen hormones, obesity, insulin resistance, as well as gestational and type 2 diabetes in the long run.

A recent study was led by Yvonne V. Louwers, MD, from the Division of Reproductive Medicine at Erasmus MC University Medical Center in Rotterdam, The Netherlands. The study accessed the risk of death in mothers whose daughter has been diagnosed with PCOS. Dr. Louwers explained  her reason for conducting these studies, "Our findings justify the active screening of mothers of women with PCOS so that timely preventive and therapeutic measures can be taken. Although our study was based on questionnaires and retrospective data, and prospective, long-term follow-up studies are needed, the excess mortality risk is just too high for us to wait patiently for the results of these follow-up studies before taking action to help reduce the risk of deaths in these mothers."

The study included 946 mothers and 902 fathers, whose daughters were diagnosed with PCOS from the Netherlands. The study also included a control group of the population consisting of 1353 men and women diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. The researchers obtained questionnaires, as well as birth and death rates from a nationwide database of all people registered as living in the Netherlands. The study shows that mothers of the PCOS patients over the age of 60 had a 50% increased risk of early death (95% CI 1.15–1.92) compared with the general Dutch population. In addition, the risk of early death increases by twofold for these mothers with diabetes (95% CI 1.19–3.41). The fathers were unaffected in this study.

Type 2 diabetes among mothers whose daughter has PCOS results in higher mortality compared with women with diabetes from the general population. More studies needs to be conducted as the pathological mechanism that may play a role in the increased risk of death is unknown. Like Dr. Louwers mentioned, "early and active screening as well as aggressive treatment for type 2 diabetes among these mothers of daughters is justified."

Practice Pearls:
  • There is a 50% increased risk of death for mothers over the age of 60 years old whose daughter has PCOS
  • Make sure to screen early and treat aggressively in diabetic mothers of PCOS patients

Louwers YV, Roest-Schalken ME, Kleefstra N, et al. Excess mortality in mothers of patients with polycystic ovary syndrome. Human Reproduction Oxford Journal. 2014, June 3.