Asthma Associated With Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, Overweight, and Obesity

Woman using inhaler
Woman using inhaler
Risk for asthma was increased by 34% in women with polycystic ovary syndrome.

BOSTON — Women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) or those who are overweight and obese may be more likely to have asthma, new data from a large Australian cohort study presented at ENDO 2016 suggest.1

PCOS is common among reproductive-aged women, affecting between 1 in 5 to 1 in 10 women, according to Anju Elizabeth Joham, MBBS, FRACP, an endocrinologist and postdoctoral research fellow at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia.

Although asthma is not understood to be associated with PCOS, one study in Western Australia suggested that asthma-related hospital admissions were higher in women with PCOS than in those without the condition,2 she said during a press conference.

To further investigate the potential link between asthma and PCOS, Dr Joham and colleagues conducted a cross-sectional analysis of data from the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health. The study includes a periodic national survey that has been collecting data on more than 58 000 women of various ages about factors that influence their health.

The researchers assessed the responses of 8612 randomly selected women from the study on self-reported PCOS and asthma.

Prevalence of PCOS was 5.8% (95% CI, 5.3-6.4) among women aged 28 to 33 years, according to the data.1 Although the prevalence was low, noted Dr Joham, the fact that the condition was self-reported may have contributed to underreporting.

Among those reporting PCOS, the prevalence of asthma was 15.2% vs 10.6% among those not reporting PCOS (P=.004).1

For women reporting asthma, mean BMI was significantly higher in women reporting PCOS vs those not reporting PCOS (BMI, 29.9 vs 27.7; P<.001).1 The proportion of women reporting asthma and type 2 diabetes across healthy weight, overweight, and obese categories were comparable in women with PCOS vs those without the condition.1

Results linked PCOS with increased odds of asthma after adjustment for age, BMI, PCOS, and smoking status (odds ratio [OR]=1.34; 95% CI, 1.004-1.79).1 Similarly, odds of asthma were increased for BMI in the overweight range (OR=1.24; 95% CI, 1.02-1.5) and for BMI in the obese range (OR=1.77; 95% CI, 1.46-2.15).1

The study’s strengths included its large size, while its main limitation was the fact that the data were self-reported, noted Dr Joham.

“Overall our findings were that the prevalence of asthma was higher in women with PCOS. PCOS on its own was associated with a 34% increased risk of asthma, and weight in the overweight and obese range was also associated with asthma,” she said.

“The link could be inflammation,” added Dr Joham. “However, this is an observational study, and at this stage, we can’t really look at exact causation … so further research is definitely needed in this area, and longitudinal studies would be helpful.”


  1. Joham AE, deCourten B, Moran LJ, Loxton D, Teede HJ. SAT-186: Prevalence of Asthma in Reproductive-Aged Women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome: New Results from the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health. Presented at: ENDO 2016; April 1-4, 2016; Boston, MA. Hart R, Doherty DA. The Potential Implications of a PCOS Diagnosis on a Woman’s Long-Term Health Using Data Linkage. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2015;100(3):911-919.