According to a study led by the University of Birmingham, it has first been suggested that the contraceptive pill may reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes by more than a quarter in women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). The pill is often given to women with PCOS to improve the regularity of menstrual bleeding..

The research findings also show that women with PCOS have twice the risk of developing type 2 diabetes or prediabetes (dysglycemia), highlighting the urgent need to find treatments to reduce this risk.


PCOS and the pill

The team of scientists led by the University of Birmingham carried out two studies to first identify the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and prediabetes in women with PCOS and secondly to investigate the impact of the use of combined oral contraceptives on the risk of type 2 diabetes and prediabetes in women with PCOS.

Using the UK GP patient records of 64,051 women with PCOS and 123,545 matched control women without PCOS, they first conducted a large population-based cohort study to analyze the risk of type 2 diabetes and prediabetes. They found that women with PCOS had twice the risk of type 2 diabetes or prediabetes, compared to those who did not have PCOS. They also identified hirsutism (excessive hair growth), a clinical sign of high androgen levels, as a significant risk factor for type 2 diabetes and prediabetes among women with PCOS.

To investigate the impact of the pill on type 2 diabetes or prediabetes, researchers, including experts from the RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences, conducted another nested case-control study of 4,814 women with PCOS. Scientists found that the use of combined oral contraceptives reduced the chances of developing type 2 diabetes and prediabetes in women with PCOS by 26%.

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According to the lead co-author, Wiebke Arlt, Director of the Research Institute for Metabolism and Systems at the University of Birmingham:

We knew from earlier smaller studies that women with PCOS are at increased risk for type 2 diabetes. However, what is important about our research is that we have been able to provide new evidence from a very large population study to first demonstrate Once we have a potential treatment option, combined oral contraceptives, to prevent this serious health risk.