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Your Environment. Your Health.

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome in Twin Sisters

Closed for Recruitment

Study / Trial Background

The NIEHS is studying polycystic ovary syndrome in twins to find out if it is caused by genetics, environmental triggers or a combination of both.

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is manifested as a heterogeneous mixture of clinical and biochemical characteristics that complicate study of its etiology. It is currently unclear to what extent PCOS-associated traits (hyperandrogenism, hyperinsulinemia, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, dyslipidemia, hypertension, obesity, and coronary artery disease) are the result of environmental factors or genetic predisposition. We propose to conduct a twin study to investigate the possibility that environmental factors are important in the development of the PCOS phenotype. Twin studies are considered to be the gold standard for determining the extent of heritability of a trait. The proposal described here is only for Step 1 of a larger, multi-step study. The major goal of step 1 is to identify a large cohort of twin pairs, in which at least one member of each pair is likely to have PCOS.

Participants for this study will come from the Mid-Atlantic Twin Registry (MATR). Many (3283) potential participants have already been identified based on their answers to a preliminary MATR screening questionnaire. Out of the approximately 7145 twin women of reproductive age who completed these MATR screening questionnaires, 1803 women reported irregular periods, 954 reported ovarian cysts, and 526 reported both irregular periods and ovarian cysts. Many of the women in this last group are likely to have PCOS. They represent 7.4% of the total sample, matching current estimates of PCOS prevalence (4-7%) in reproductive age women. We will also add new twin pairs who meet the criteria (irregular periods and evidence of PCOS or cystic ovaries) as they are recruited into the MATR and take the preliminary surveys. According to MATR statistics, about 33% of twin pairs are monozygotic (MZ, identical). Therefore, approximately 174 of the 526 women likely to have PCOS are members of a MZ pair.

Principal Investigator

Jacqueline M. Vink, Ph.D., VU University of Amsterdam

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