Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a common endocrinopathy affecting 46XX individuals of reproductive age. Cardinal features of PCOS include hyperandrogenism, irregular periods, and insulin resistance.
Pathogenesis is unclear but likely involves hypothalamic, pituitary, or ovarian abnormalities leading to increased androgen production. In addition, alternative insulin signaling pathways are activated to preserve ovarian sensitivity to insulin while other “classical” tissues (e.g.liver, adipose, muscle) are insulin resistant.
Treatment targets specific symptoms and the most common regimens include weight loss, metformin, oral contraceptives, anti-androgen compounds, and fertility treatments.
Observations of individuals with gene mutations affecting androgen metabolism suggest that androgens may influence the development of gender identity. We reviewed studies exploring the relationship between gender identity and PCOS to further elucidate this relationship.
Rates of PCOS in hormone-naïve transmasculine (TM) individuals appear to be higher than in the general population as cited by small, early studies using convenience samples and inconsistent criteria for PCOS. A more recent, larger study using established guidelines for PCOS did not show this to be true.
Further, other studies show that although PCOS patients are less likely to identify with a traditional feminine gender scheme compared to age-matched peers, the prevalence of gender incongruence in PCOS patients is not higher than in the general population.
Larger systematic studies with control groups using modern diagnostic criteria for both PCOS and gender incongruence are needed to clarify the relationship between PCOS and gender identity.
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