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BACKGROUND: The aim of this study was to investigate the prevalence of polycystic ovaries (PCO) among women with self-reported oligomenorrhoea and/or hirsutism and to see whether women with symptoms and PCO have less favourable levels of biochemical markers than controls or women with symptoms and normal ovaries. METHODS: The ultrasonographic ovarian morphology and the hormonal and metabolic profile of female cases with self-reported symptoms typical of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) (n = 196) and asymptomatic controls (n = 67) at the age of 31 years were examined in a general population-based Northern Finland Birth Cohort 1966. RESULTS: The prevalence of PCO (37.3 versus 18.2%; P = 0.004) was significantly higher in the cases (oligomenorrhoea and/or hirsutism) than in the controls. PCO morphology was detected in 18.4% of those who reported only hirsutism, in 47.9% of those reporting only oligomenorrhoea, and in 70.4% of those reporting both symptoms. In the cases with PCO compared to (i) the controls and (ii) the cases without PCO, body mass index (P = 0.026 and P = 0.011), ovarian volume [right P = 0.001, left P = 0.208 (non-significant) and right P < 0.001, left P = 0.022], mean follicle number (P < 0.001 and P < 0.001), testosterone (P = 0.063 and P = 0.029), free androgen index (P = 0.007 and P = 0.013) and insulin (P = 0.033 and P = 0.040) were higher, and sex hormone-binding globulin (P = 0.039 and P = 0.068) and glucose:insulin ratio (P = 0.060 and P = 0.054) lower. Cases with PCO also had higher waist:hip ratio (P = 0.011), infertility rate (P = 0.005) and glucose (P = 0.045) and lower insulin-like growth factor-binding protein-1 (P = 0.012) than controls. The clinical, hormonal and metabolic characteristics did not differ significantly between cases without PCO and controls with the exception of infertility rate, which was significantly higher in the cases without PCO (26.4 vs. 10.0%; P = 0.009). CONCLUSIONS: In a general population, women with symptoms of oligomenorrhoea and/or hirsutism more often have PCO than asymptomatic women. Levels of biochemical and clinical markers in symptomatic women with PCO differed from and were less favourable than those in symptomatic women without PCO or asymptomatic women, implying an increased risk for health.

Original publication




Journal article


Hum Reprod

Publication Date





1083 - 1088


Adult, Biomarkers, Cohort Studies, Female, Finland, Hirsutism, Humans, Infertility, Female, Oligomenorrhea, Ovary, Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, Prevalence, Risk Factors, Ultrasonography