A new way of assessing the risk of developing type 2 diabetes for women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) has been developed by the University of Birmingham.
PCOS is a common condition affecting around 1 in 5 women during their life. The condition causes non-dangerous cysts to develop on the ovaries which can affect fertility. The condition tends to also be characterised by having higher levels of male hormones than normal. These androgen hormones, such as androstenedione and testosterone, are also present in healthy women but at lower levels.
Research has shown that women with PCOS have up to three the risk of developing type 2 diabetes as women without the condition.
To investigate the impact of androgen hormones as risk factors for type 2 diabetes, the researchers studied 86 women with PCOS as well as 43 control participants, which were matched with the women with PCOS by age and by BMI.
Androgen levels of as androstenedione and testosterone were measured and insulin resistance was tested using Oral Glucose Tolerance Tests (OGTT), Homeostasis Model Assessment of Insulin Resistance (HOMA-IR) and Insulin Sensitivity Index (ISI).
The women with PCOS were grouped into three categories according to their androgen levels:

High androstenedione and high testosterone – 56 participants with PCOS
High androstenedione and normal testosterone – 20 participants with PCOS
Normal androstenedione and normal testosterone – 10 participants with PCOS

The researchers found that the women with normal levels of both androgrens had no increased incidence of higher than normal blood glucose levels when given an oral glucose tolerance test.
Women with normal testosterone but high androstenedione levels had a 14% increased incidence of having higher than normal blood sugar levels and women with high levels of both androstenedione and testosterone had a 25% increased incidence of higher blood glucose levels.
The researchers conclude that measurements of androstenedione and testosterone provides a useful tool for measuring the risk of insulin resistance and therefore type 2 diabetes in women diagnosed with PCOS.

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