Can PCOS lead to cancer?

PCOS increases the risk of some types of cancer.

For instance, some research has shown that risk of cancer of the endometrium (pronounced en-doh-MEE-tree-uhm), the inside lining of the uterus, may be higher for women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) than it is for women without PCOS.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

Data on links between breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and PCOS are limited. While some small studies have suggested that a lack of ovulation, as occurs with PCOS, is linked with an increased risk of breast cancer, other studies have not shown an association.1 While some research has shown more than a doubling of the risk of ovarian cancer in women with PCOS,5 scientists have not confirmed these links in large population studies, and further studies hint that women with PCOS may have a lower risk of ovarian cancer.1,2,6 Therefore, any associations between breast or ovarian cancers and PCOS remain inconclusive.

Learn more about these different types of cancers on the National Cancer Institute website:


  1. Daniilidis, A., & Dinas, K. (2009). Long term health consequences of polycystic ovarian syndrome: A review analysis. Hippokratia, 13(2), 90–92.
  2. Ehrmann, D. A. (2005). Polycystic ovary syndrome. New England Journal of Medicine, 352(12), 1223–1236.
  3. American Society for Reproductive Medicine. (2014). Patient fact sheet: Polycystic ovary syndrome. Retrieved May 23, 2016, from external link
  4. National Center for Biotechnology Information, National Library of Medicine, PubMed Health. (n.d.). Polycystic ovary syndrome. Retrieved May 23, 2016, from
  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(4 Pt 1), 554–559.
  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, 26(9), 2442–2451.
top of pageBACK TO TOP