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Can PCOS lead to cancer?

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PCOS increases the risk of some types of cancer.

The risk of cancer of the endometrium (pronounced en-doh-MEE-tree-uhm), the inside lining of the uterus, is three times as high for women with PCOS as it is for other women.1 Irregular periods, or a lack of periods, can cause the endometrium to build up and become thick. This thickening can lead to endometrial cancer.2,3,4

Women with PCOS also may be at higher risk for breast cancer and ovarian cancer. Small studies have suggested that a lack of ovulation (anovulation), as occurs with PCOS, is linked with a risk of breast cancer that is three to four times that of women without anovulation.1 In other research, results showed more than a doubling of the risk of ovarian cancer in women with PCOS,5 but scientists have not confirmed these links in large population studies.2,6

Read more about breast cancer.

Learn more about endometrial cancer.

Find more information about ovarian cancer.

  1. NHLBI. (2011). What is coronary heart disease? Retrieved January 31, 2012, from [top]
  2. Ehrmann. D. A. (2005). Polycystic ovary syndrome. New England Journal of Medicine, 352, 1223–1236. [top]
  3. American Society for Reproductive Medicine. (2005). Patient fact sheet: Polycystic ovary syndrome. Birmingham, AL: Author. [top]
  4. National Center for Biotechnology Information, National Library of Medicine, PubMed Health. (2011). Polycystic ovary syndrome. Retrieved December 22, 2011, from [top]
  5. Schildkraut, J. M., Schwingl, P. J., Bastos, E., Evanoff, A., & Hughes, C. (1996). Epithelial ovarian cancer risk among women with polycystic ovary syndrome. Obstetrics and Gynecology, 88, 554–559. [top]
  6. Barry, J. A., Kuczmierczyk, A. R., & Hardiman, P. J. (2011). Anxiety and depression in polycystic ovary syndrome: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Human Reproduction<, 9, 2442–2451. [top]

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