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PCOS and related health conditions

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) can increase the risk of developing a range of health conditions.

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Women with PCOS have an increased risk of developing prediabetes (the stage before type 2 diabetes) and type 2 diabetes than women without PCOS. With type 2 diabetes, your body blocks glucose from going into your cells, which causes it to produce more insulin. This condition can be improved with a healthy diet and increased physical activity.

Women with PCOS may also develop type 2 diabetes earlier in life, for example, in their 30s and 40s.

Cardiovascular disease

Women with PCOS may have:

  • high blood fats
  • high levels of 'bad' cholesterol
  • high levels of inflammatory proteins
  • high blood pressure.

This can increase the risk of developing cardiovascular disease (i.e. heart disease, heart attack or stroke).

The good news is that women can reduce this risk with a healthy lifestyle (e.g. a balanced diet and regular exercise) – or medicine if required.

Metabolic syndrome

Women with PCOS are more likely to develop metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is when different conditions occur together, increasing the risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

For example:

  • high fasting blood glucose
  • high blood pressure
  • obesity
  • high cholesterol.

Endometrial cancer

Infrequent periods, associated with PCOS, might increase the risk of endometrial cancer. Regular periods (or at least four per year) help to maintain a healthy uterus lining and prevent a build-up of abnormal cells.

Sleep apnoea

PCOS can increase the risk of sleep apnoea. Excessive fatty tissue in the neck can partially block the airway, leading to altered breathing patterns during sleep. This may lead to sleep loss, tiredness and reduced quality of life.

This web page is designed to be informative and educational. It is not intended to provide specific medical advice or replace advice from your health practitioner. The information above is based on current medical knowledge, evidence and practice as at May 2023.

This con­tent has been reviewed by a group of med­ical sub­ject mat­ter experts, in accor­dance with Jean Hailes pol­i­cy.

Monash University. International evidence-based guideline for the assessment and management of polycystic ovary syndrome. 2018. Melbourne, Australia.
Meyer C, McGrath BP,Teede HJ. Overweight women with polycystic ovary syndrome have evidence of subclinical cardiovascular disease. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2005 Oct;90(10):5711–6.
Ehrmann DA, Liljenquist DR, Kasza K, Azziz R, Legro RS, Ghazzi MN et al. Prevalence and predictors of the metabolic syndrome in women with polycystic ovary syndrome. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2006 Jan;91(1):48–53
McCartney CR, Marshall JC. Clinical Practice: Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. N Engl J Med. 2016;375(1):54–64.
Last updated: 
07 December 2023
Last reviewed: 
29 May 2023

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