Is PCOS Becoming a Worldwide Epidemic?

Polycystic ovary syndrome is the most common hormonal disorder occurring in women during their reproductive years. It's thought that 4% to 10% of all women have the disorder. However, since many women don't know they have polycystic ovarian syndrome or some aspect of it, the actual number probably exceeds 10%. Polycystic ovarian syndrome is one of the leading causes of infertility. Symptoms frequently start to show up soon after puberty.

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New evidence is suggesting that polycystic ovary syndrome is not confined to the "rich", highly industrialized, Western countries.

Chronic disorders such as diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease and polycystic ovary syndrome appear to be advancing in those countries that are becoming increasingly "Westernized", i.e., eating a Western diet and adopting a more sedentary Western lifestyle.

The incidence of these diseases appears to be increasing dramatically in India and China.

In the case of India, it is not yet clear to us whether the genetic profile of Asian Indians predisposes them to PCOS when they consume a Western diet of refined, processed foods. In other words, we're not sure that Asian Indians are a high-risk group.

However, we have been getting informal reports from India to suggest the PCOS is becoming a big problem in that country.

Regardless of your country of origin or which country you live in, your diet, your lifestyle and your environment have a great influence on whether you develop symptoms of polycystic ovarian syndrome.

For example, Mexican women have a rate of PCOS that is roughly similar to other ethnic groups or countries. However, Mexican-American women have twice the rate of PCOS as compared to Mexican women. This illustrates that individuals within the same ethnic group have different rates of PCOS, depending on where they live and what they eat and do.

Allahbadia GN et al, Polycystic ovary syndrome in the Indian Subcontinent, Semin Reprod Med. 2008 Jan;26(1):22-34
Moran C et al, Prevalence of polycystic ovary syndrome and related disorders in mexican women, Gynecol Obstet Invest. 2010;69(4):274-80

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