Can The Area You Live In Make PCOS Symptoms Worse?

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a health condition caused by a hormonal imbalance in the reproductive system, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 1 in 10 women of child-bearing years is affected by PCOS. As a result, this hormonal imbalance can create various issues in the body. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) clarifies that you must have two out of three following symptoms to be diagnosed with PCOS by a doctor. This includes irregular menstrual cycles or no periods, tiny cysts on the ovaries, and elevated levels of male hormones. Additionally, these elevated male hormones may create other symptoms, such as excessive hair on the body or face, acne, and thinning hair.

That being said, a new 2022 study published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism reports that the area where a person with PCOS lives may be associated with their symptoms. So can the sector where you live make PCOS symptoms worse? An author of the study and director of the Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility Program at Cedars-Sina, Dr. Margareta Pisarska, told Cedars Sinai, "Our findings of regional, and some racial differences in polycystic ovary syndrome suggest there are both genetic and environmental influences on how this disease manifests. Ongoing research is needed to identify modifiable risk factors to bring precision medicine to the management of this disease and to improve the care of all women with PCOS."

How much do PCOS symptoms vary across the U.S.?

During the study, a team of researchers collected health data from 1,610 women with PCOS by using the National Institutes of Health Criteria from 1987 to 2010. In particular, the researchers were looking at the participants' hormone levels, body mass index (BMI), waist-hip-ratio, menstruation history, glucose tolerance, and hirsutism, which is a condition when there's too much hair (via Cedars Sinai). In addition, they collected demographic data, per the study.

Researchers found that the environment may affect the prevalence of PCOS symptoms when comparing women who live in California versus Alabama, points out Cedars Sinai. Regarding Alabama, 85% of women with PCOS were more likely to experience hirsutism, points out Medical News Today. These participants also tended to be younger with a higher BMI.

"By contrast, California patients with PCOS had higher levels of androgens, most notably the male sex hormone testosterone, irrespective of race," Dr. Pisarska told Cedars Sinai. To be precise, 73% of women with PCOS from California experienced hirsutism, while 59% were likely to have elevated amounts of free testosterone, shares Medical News Today. After these findings, Dr. Pisarska told Cedars Sinai that the researchers plan to further examine the underlying reasons for the findings, such as diet, lifestyle, and social factors. Nevertheless, be sure to speak with your doctor if you're concerned about PCOS.