Where are we in understanding the natural history of polycystic ovary syndrome? A systematic review of longitudinal cohort studies

Academic Article

Abstract

  • STUDY QUESTION: What is the natural history of reproductive, psychological and oncological features in women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) in comparison to those without PCOS across the life course? SUMMARY ANSWER: Existing longitudinal data on changes in reproductive, psychological and oncological features in PCOS are inadequate and conflicting, but the limited evidence suggests that total testosterone (T) and dehydroepiandrosterone sulphate (DHEAS) levels decline more significantly in women with PCOS than in those without PCOS, and the risk of gestational diabetes is higher in pregnant women with PCOS compared to their counterparts without PCOS. WHAT IS KNOWN ALREADY: The progression of reproductive, psychological and oncological features in PCOS remains unclear, which limits prevention and early diagnosis strategies across the lifespan. Understanding the natural history of PCOS is one of the overarching priorities in PCOS research. STUDY DESIGN, SIZE, DURATION: This is a systematic review of longitudinal cohort studies with a narrative presentation of findings. Databases MEDLINE, EMBASE, Ovid PsycInfo, CINAHL PLUS and EBM reviews were searched between 15 January 2020 and 11 February 2021 with no language restrictions. Only studies published from the year 1990 to February 2021 were included. PARTICIPANTS/MATERIALS, SETTING, METHODS: In line with current guidelines for the assessment and management of PCOS, we included studies where participants were females with PCOS diagnosed according to the 2003 Rotterdam or the 1990 National Institutes of Health (NIH) consensus criteria. MAIN RESULTS AND THE ROLE OF CHANCE: A total of 21 longitudinal studies including 62 123 participants over four continents reported reproductive, psychological and/or oncological outcomes. Participants were females aged between 15 and 49 years at baseline, with follow-up periods ranging from 4 weeks to 32 years. Consistent evidence based on limited studies suggests that total T and DHEAS levels decline to a greater degree in women with PCOS compared to those without PCOS, and the risk gestational diabetes is higher in women with PCOS than in those without PCOS. Evidence reporting changes over time in the majority of the remaining outcomes was unclear due to conflicting and/or insufficient information. LIMITATIONS, REASONS FOR CAUTION: There was extreme heterogeneity between studies in terms of study setting, population characteristics, follow-up period, effect measures used and laboratory testing approaches. WIDER IMPLICATIONS OF THE FINDINGS: Understanding the natural history of PCOS and changes in diagnostic, reproductive, psychological and oncological features of PCOS across the lifespan is still a challenge and the existing literature is both limited and conflicting. It is important that future long-term prospective longitudinal studies are conducted in unselected and well-characterized populations. STUDY FUNDING/COMPETING INTEREST(S): This specific study was not funded. S.K. is supported by scholarships from the Research Training Program of the Commonwealth of Australia and Monash University; H.J.T. is supported by an Australian National Health and Medical Research Council fellowship; and A.E.J. is supported by the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council's Centre for Research Excellence in Women's Health in Reproductive Life. R.A. was employed by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine and is a consultant to Spruce Biosciences and Fortress Biotech. The other authors have no conflicts of interest to declare. REGISTRATION NUMBER: Prospero registration number: CRD42020165546.
  • Authors

    Published In

  • Human Reproduction  Journal
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Kiconco S; Tay CT; Rassie KL; Azziz R; Teede HJ; Joham AE
  • Start Page

  • 1255
  • End Page

  • 1273
  • Volume

  • 37
  • Issue

  • 6