In the past, research has found connections between polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and pancreatic cancer. For example, one study suggested that having PCOS could increase pancreatic cancer risk by 3.4-fold. The concern with these studies is that, in cases like the study just mentioned, there were small sample sizes. But understanding the risk factors for pancreatic cancer is crucial. This cancer is often difficult to diagnose in early stages and has a poor prognosis once it progresses. Learning the risk factors can contribute to earlier identification.
News Medical reports that a study published in December 2022 sought to further strengthen the understanding of the relationship between pancreatic cancer and PCOS. The research included 446 adult women with pancreatic cancer, as well as 209 matched controls. Data was sourced from the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center Pancreatic Tumor Registry.
Participants were asked a number of questions, including whether they had ever been diagnosed with PCOS. After the data was collected, the research team designed odds ratios and confidence intervals. They found that, after accounting for other factors, PCOS contributed to a 1.9-fold higher risk of developing pancreatic cancer. Interestingly, a family history of pancreatic cancer did not affect this risk factor. People with type 2 diabetes also saw a slightly lowered risk.
More research is needed to better understand the underlying mechanisms of these diseases—and how they connect—as well as how healthcare providers can use these facts to provide better care and diagnostic processes for patients.
About Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
In individuals with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a hormonal disorder, the ovaries or adrenal glands produce excess androgen. This causes irregular menstrual periods and may lead to the development of fluid-filled cysts on the ovaries. While polycystic is part of the name, some individuals with PCOS do not develop cysts. PCOS is more common in females of child-bearing age, with a family history of PCOS, or who are obese. Symptoms typically appear around puberty and can include:
- Pelvic pain
- Irregular periods
- Severe acne or oily skin
- Excess facial hair
- Polycystic ovaries
- Infertility (complication)
- Type 2 diabetes or gestational diabetes (complication)
- Metabolic syndrome (complication)
- Issues with pregnancy (complication)
Please note that this is not an exhaustive list of symptoms. PCOS can be managed with lifestyle changes, as well as medications like clomiphene, letrozole, metformin, or combination birth control pills (among others).