Presented at the European Respiratory Society International Congress, the findings suggest that polycystic ovary syndrome could be responsible for lower lung capacity in some women, which heightens the risk for cardiovascular disease and higher mortality rates, even in the absence of chronic respiratory conditions.
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is believed to impact nearly 1 in 6 women and results in a hormone imbalance, causing irregular menstrual cycles, infertility, and other symptoms. According to new study findings, the syndrome can also impact a woman’s respiratory health.
Presented at the European Respiratory Society International Congress, the findings suggest that PCOS could be responsible for lower lung capacity in some women, which heightens the risk for cardiovascular disease and higher mortality rates, even in the absence of chronic respiratory conditions.
“This research highlights the fact that PCOS can affect different parts of a woman’s body, not only her reproductive organs,” Diana van der Plaat, PhD, a RESPIRE 3 fellow at the National Heart and Lung Institute, Imperial College London, said in a statement.
Compared with women without the syndrome, the women in the study who had PCOS were approximately 10% more likely to have lower lung function. The data came from 182,619 women from the UK Biobank project, and the researchers also relied on previously published genetic data on PCOS from various worldwide studies.
Each woman’s lung function was assessed using a spirometer, which measures the amount of air that a person can breathe out in one second and the total amount of air exhaled in one forced breath. From there, the researchers used genetic variants associated with the syndrome to determine whether PCOS was associated with poor respiratory health based on the lung test.
“We use genetic variants as a proxy for PCOS because these genetic variants are there from the moment a person is conceived, and they do not change over the life course,” explained van der Plaat. "This means that we can investigate the causal relationship between PCOS and lung function and show that the trend we see in women’s breathing is likely to be caused by PCOS, rather than the other way around."
What the research doesn’t show is why PCOS may be linked to lung function, but the authors do suggest the possible link might be related to insulin levels and diabetes, as women with PCOS are known to face a higher risk of diabetes.
“Lung function is a major factor in health and mortality and we need to understand why some people have lower lung function as it may lead to chronic lung disease in later life,” Daiana Stolz, MD, University Hospital Basel, Switzerland, chair of the European Respiratory Society Education Council, said in a statement.