Polycystic ovary syndrome: role of androgen excess self-assessment in diagnosis
Karanja, Pascaline Wanjiru
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BACKGROUND: Polycystic ovary syndrome is the most common endocrine disorder affecting reproductive-aged women. It is diagnosed using a combination of menstrual irregularity, clinical and/or biochemical hyperandrogenism and polycystic ovary morphology upon ultrasound. Hyperandrogenism in females may clinically manifest as hirsutism, acne, alopecia, or other masculinization of features. Assessing total/free testosterone, dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate, and 17-hydroxyprogesterone provides biochemical evidence of hyperandrogenism. OBJECTIVE: To determine self-reported clinical signs of androgen excess using data from the Ovulation and Menstruation Health (OM) Study, a diverse, multi-ethnic cohort study being conducted at Boston University School of Medicine. METHODS: Data was collected from participants enrolled in the Ovulation and Menstruation Health Study pilot cohort. This epidemiologic survey captured demographics, menstrual cycle patterns, PCOS histories, reproductive histories and manifestations of androgen excess in a diverse patient population. Participants were women ages 18-45 who had the capacity to ovulate/menstruate at the time of the study, had no history of chemotherapy, radiation, or surgical menopause, and were not pregnant at the time of the study. To assess androgen excess, participants were asked to self-report hair growth in nine body areas, acne on the face and back and hair loss on the scalp. The nine body areas were scored using the modified Ferriman-Gallwey (mFG) scoring system. Reference images created by a medical illustrator were used for hirsutism and alopecia grading while clear descriptions were provided for grading acne severity. Clinical hirsutism was defined as total mFG score of ≥ 8, or ethnic specific cutoff for East Asian (≥ 2) and Southeast Asian (≥ 3) women. Alopecia was defined as scalp hair loss ≥ 2. For participants that consented to medical record validation total, free and bioavailable testosterone lab levels were assessed for biochemical hyperandrogenism evaluation. RESULTS: Beginning August 9, the day the study opened to the public, 249 participants completed the pilot survey questionnaire. These participants were 66.8% white (n=165), 6.5% Hispanic or Spanish origin (n=16), 10.5% Black or African-American (n=26), 1.6% East Asian (n=4), 2.0% Southeast Asian (n=5), 2.4% South Asian (n=6), and 10.9% were of mixed ethnic backgrounds (n=27). 22.5% (55/245) of these women had clinical hirsutism by total mFG score. Mean total mFG scores were highest in women who were South Asian at 13.8±9.1 (n=6) and Hispanic at 8.6±8.7 (n=16). Moderate-severe acne was reported in 23.6% (58/246) of respondents, 24.8% (41/165) of white women, 26.7% (4/15) of Hispanic women, 15.4% (4/26) of Black women, 0.0% (0/4) of East Asian women, 20.0% (1/5) of Southeast Asian women, 50% of South Asian women (3/6) and 20% (5/25) of women of mixed ethnicities. 9.4% (23/246) of all pilot women reported alopecia, highest in Black (26.9%, 7/26) and East Asian women (25%, 1/4). Among women that had a PCOS diagnosis there was a higher presence of clinical hirsutism, higher acne severity, and higher prevalence of alopecia when compared to non-PCOS women. In addition, 33%(4/12) of the 44 women that consented to medical record validation had total testosterone levels above the normal range. CONCLUSIONS: This pilot population demonstrated an ethnic dependent pattern of development for hirsutism, acne and alopecia. Additionally, women who had a PCOS diagnosis were more likely to report having the clinical signs of androgen excess than those without a diagnosis.