Polycystic Ovary Syndrome and Risk of Pancreatic Cancer

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In a single-center case-control study reported as a research letter in JAMA Oncology, Peeri et al found that women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) may be at an increased risk of developing pancreatic cancer.

Study Details

The study involved data from the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) Pancreatic Tumor Registry. The study population included 446 women (cases) with pathologically or cytologically confirmed pancreatic adenocarcinoma and 209 controls, who were visitors accompanying patients to MSKCC clinics or spouses of patients with pancreatic cancer with no history of cancer.

Key Findings

A diagnosis of PCOS was reported by 49 cases (11%) and 18 controls (9%). In analysis adjusting for age, race/ethnicity, body mass index (BMI), and postmenopausal estrogen use, a diagnosis of PCOS was significantly associated with risk of pancreatic cancer, with an odds ratio (OR) of 1.88 (95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.02–3.46).

In analysis adjusting for all of the above factors plus diagnosis of the potential mediator type 2 diabetes, the odds ratio remained significant, at 1.78 (95% CI = 0.95–3.34). In analyses excluding cases with pancreatic cancer diagnosed < 5 years after PCOS diagnosis, those with pancreatitis, and those with a history of familial pancreatic cancer, risk estimates were not materially altered.

The investigators stated, “A diagnosis of PCOS was associated with a 1.9-fold higher risk of pancreatic cancer…. This association was independent of BMI, largely not driven by type 2 diabetes, and robust to additional adjustment for several covariates and sensitivity analyses. These data suggest some individuals may have unknown metabolic derangements that may [underlie] the development of both conditions.”

Mengmeng Du, ScD, of the Department of Epidemiology & Biostatistics, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, is the corresponding author for the JAMA Oncology article.

Disclosure: The study was supported by National Cancer Institute grants, the Geoffrey Beene Foundation, the Arnold and Arlene Goldstein Family Foundation, and others. For full disclosures of the study authors, visit

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