Daughter's Hormone Disorder Might Affect Mother's Health

Mothers of polycystic ovary syndrome patients may have increased risk of early death

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) When diseases are passed down through families, it's usually from parents to their children. But sometimes a daughter or son's poor health can put their parent's health at risk later in life.

A recent study found that older mothers of women diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome had a higher risk of early death, especially if the mothers had type 2 diabetes, than the general population.

The researchers concluded that mothers of daughters with polycystic ovary syndrome should be screened for type 2 diabetes.

"Tell your doctor if your daughter has polycystic ovary syndrome."

The lead author of this study was Yvonne V. Louwers, MD, from the Division of Reproductive Medicine at Erasmus MC University Medical Center in Rotterdam, The Netherlands.

The study included 946 mothers and 902 fathers of 958 daughters who were diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) from the Netherlands.

The average age of the PCOS patients was 29 years old, and the average age of the parents was 63 years old.

PCOS is the most common hormone-related condition among women of reproductive age, affecting about 6 to 10 percent this population. PCOS is a lifelong condition with a range of symptoms, such as excess male hormones, excess body hair and irregular ovarian function. The condition also carries a high risk for obesity, insulin resistance (when the body doesn't effectively use the hormone insulin to control blood sugar), gestational diabetes (diabetes during pregnancy) and type 2 diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes is a condition in which the body can no longer regulate the level of sugar in the blood.

At the time of diagnosis, the PCOS patients filled out questionnaires about their parents’ medical histories.

The study also included a control (comparison) group of 1,353 men and women with type 2 diabetes.

The researchers compared death rates of the mothers and fathers against the death rates of the general Dutch population. Then, the mothers and fathers with diabetes were compared against the control group.

The findings showed that among the parents, there were 302 deaths in 62,693 person-years (number of people multiplied by number of years alive).

The mothers (of the PCOS patients) over the age of 60 had a 50 percent increased risk of early death compared to the general population.

When compared to the women with diabetes, the researchers discovered that the risk of early death increased twofold for the mothers (of the PCOS patients) with diabetes.

The fathers of the PCOS patients did not have a higher risk of early death than the controls or the general Dutch population.

The researchers concluded that the mothers of the PCOS patients who have diabetes are a very specific high-risk group that is typically overlooked in the medical world, thus limiting the ability to use preventive measures. Dr. Louwers and team strongly suggested that early screening and aggressive treatment for type 2 diabetes is necessary.

The study was limited because parental diagnoses of diabetes were self-reported by the daughters and were not confirmed by a doctor. Also, there was no available data on any other health factors associated with the parents.

This study was published on May 29 in Human Reproduction.

Two of the study's authors disclosed receiving fees and grant support from a number of companies, including Ferring, Genovum, Merck-Serono, Organon, Schering Plough, Serono and Wyeth.

Review Date: 
May 29, 2014
Last Updated:
May 31, 2014