Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) might not be limited to women, with research indicating that a male equivalent of the disorder exists, manifesting in symptoms ranging from baldness to gynecomastia or swollen male breast tissue.
This is as per an ongoing joint research by doctors at AIIMS, Delhi, and Sher-i-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS). It looked at a sample of 3,500 patients — the largest such data set in the world. This will also be key for future research by the task force set up by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) for PCOS at 11 centres across the country.
First described in 1935, PCOS causes irregular menstrual cycles, excessive body or facial hair and polycystic ovaries in women. According to the National Health Portal, ovarian cysts are not necessary for diagnosis. However, the exact cause remains unknown.
“Initially, it was thought to be linked to gender. Now we’ve found that in cases of a woman having PCOS, the probability of a brother or other male family members having the same disease is very high. Our research has shown that the same metabolic syndromes present themselves in 80% of the cases in male family members,” said Dr Mohammad Ashraf Ganie, associate professor, department of endocrinology and metabolism, AIIMS.
Ganie — who is also the chief coordinator of the ICMR task force — added that women with PCOS produce slightly higher amounts of male hormones known as androgens, leading to symptoms such as increased hair growth on face. “In men, however, research found that the male equivalent of PCOS can lead to lower amounts of the male hormone, leading to a lower testosterone count,” he said.
These findings were echoed by researchers from the department of clinical and experimental medicine at the University of Catania in Italy. They published evidence in the Journal of Endocrinological Investigation supporting the “existence of the male PCOS equivalent”, representing “endocrine syndrome with a metabolic background” that could lead to cancer later in life.
According to AIIMS, about 20-25% of women of reproductive age in India suffer from PCOS. This, Ganie argued, was crucial. “Our latest findings indicate that in India, every third or fourth woman is affected by it. It doesn’t just impact women, but also men in the families. It further leads to multiple metabolic problems… People need to be aware of this,” he said.