Study Links Plastics Chemical to Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome

Research presented at the Endocrine Society's annual meeting in June revealed an association between bisphenol A (BPA) and Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS).

A new study suggests polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), an endocrine disorder that affects 7% to 10% of premenopausal women in the United States, may be traced back to exposure to the chemical bisphenol A (BPA).

Identified by Endocrine Society researchers as an “endocrine-disrupting chemical,” this tasteless, odorless compound is absorbed primarily through the diet by means of plastic containers or metal cans used to hold a variety of food and drink products.

Scientists have found higher levels of BPA circulating in the bloodstreams of patients with PCOS, which is a leading cause of infertility among women. In addition to reproductive complications, PCOS is associated with an increased risk of several chronic conditions, including type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, heart disease, sleep apnea, and liver disease, among others.

In an examination of 71 women with PCOS and 100 healthy women, researchers from the University of Athens Medical School noted blood levels of BPA that were 60% higher in lean women with PCOS and 30% higher in obese women with PCOS. As BPA levels increased, so did the presence of circulating male hormone testosterone and androstenedione.

Although the finding does not suggest a cause-effect relationship between BPA and PCOS, it may be cause for concern among women who already have the syndrome, according to study coauthor Evanthia Diamanti-Kandarakis, MD, PhD.

“Women with PCOS should be alert regarding this environmental contaminant’s potential adverse effects on reproductive aspects of their health problem,” she said.

For an in-depth view of PCOS and the pharmacologic agents and nonpharmacologic measures used to treat this complex condition, take the free 2-credit Pharmacy Times continuing education course, “Understanding and Managing Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome,” written by Yvette C. Terrie, BSPharm, RPh.

For other articles in this issue, see:

  • Louisiana Pharmacist Leads the Way for Medication Therapy Management
  • Health Plans to Provide Free Preventive Care
  • Debate Over Mail-Order Prescription Drugs Heats Up