How Race/Ethnicity May Affect A PCOS Diagnosis

We all come in beautiful colors!

I try not to make everything about race/ethnicity. As a black woman though, I can’t help but think about how my race impacts things and how things impact me because of it.

This has led me to wonder If PCOS presents itself differently depending on a person’s race and ethnicity. So, I decided to do some research on it!

In this post, I will be discussing what I found out. To organize these findings, I decided to break things down by race/ethnicity. It just seemed easier that way.

Read on if you are interested!

Black women versus other groups

Diabetes is something that women with PCOS are at risk for. In all research articles about race/ethnicity and PCOS, it was found that black women were at a higher risk than the other groups for getting it. Their fasting insulin levels were higher and even significantly so in some cases.

The risk of hirsutism showed conflicting results. One article showed that black women were at a higher risk and a couple of others showed that there was less of a risk.

High blood pressure is something seen in a lot of women with PCOS. Per the studies, black women are more likely to have hypertension than whites and Asians but less likely than Hispanics.

Obesity is also an issue in black women with (and without) PCOS. It is shown that there is a significantly higher chance of this occurring in blacks than in whites and Asians. This was contradicted in one study as it showed that the black women actually had lower body fat than the others.

The likelihood of getting heart disease was significantly higher in black women in the studies. This was true even though our triglyceride levels were lower than the other groups.

A few studies showed that black women with PCOS had higher sex hormone binding globulins (SHGB) than whites and Asians. SHGB tests show how much testosterone is going to the tissues in our bodies. A very high level of SHGB comes some issues such as low energy and sex drive.

Another problem specific to black women with PCOS was that there is less success with IVF cycles. People might think that all black women are really fertile due to stereotypes, but this is not true according to studies.

PCOS is said to affect an estimated 8% of black women.

Hispanic women versus other groups

The studies indicated that Hispanic women with PCOS presented with more severe cases than the other groups. The reasoning for this is unknown but could be due to diet and genetics.

Their risk of insulin resistance was shown to be significantly higher than in whites and Asians. In comparison to black women, their risk was only slightly higher.

When it comes to hirsutism and acne, the studies showed a higher prevalence in Hispanic women. Excess hair on the face in particular was worse.

In all of the studies, their blood pressure results were higher than whites, Asians and blacks. High blood pressure can lead to heart attacks, strokes and aneurysms. They also had higher HDL levels than whites, blacks and Asians. This is considered to be good cholesterol but if the levels are too high it can be a bad thing.

 PCOS is said to affect an estimated 13% of Hispanic women.

Asian women versus other groups

There was some contradiction between studies on the likelihood of hirsutism and acne in Asian women. It also appears as though the likelihood is different depending on the region of Asia. For example, studies showed that women with PCOS from SE Asia were more likely to have more excess hair and acne than white women. East Asians, however, were less likely to deal with excess hair and acne than the other groups.

It is well known that Asian women are usually of lower weight/BMI than the other groups. Despite this, they are more likely to have insulin resistance and diabetes than whites. They also have higher odds of having excess abdominal fat with their PCOS diagnosis.

The percentage of Asian women with PCOS is 1-3.3% (depending on ethnicity).

White women versus other groups

 If you have read this far into the post, you probably have a good idea on where white women are with these issues that accompany a PCOS diagnosis. They are less likely to have certain things and more likely to have certain things.

One thing that hasn’t been touched on is the mental health aspect of PCOS. The physical effects (abdominal fat, acne, oily skin, excess hair, hair thinning etc.) of the disease can really hurt a woman’s self-esteem. Researchers found out that white women had much higher levels of anxiety and depression than women of other races/ethnicities.

According to a few studies, PCOS affects about 4.8% of white women.

Native American versus other groups

 Unfortunately, there was not much to be found on Native American women with PCOS. The only thing out there was that they usually have a higher a BMI than whites, Asians and blacks. It was on par with Hispanic women.

The rate of PCOS in Native Americans is unknown.

Treatments are the same!

Even though PCOS may present itself differently depending on one’s race or ethnicity- the treatment options are still the same. They include the following:

  • Diet and exercise- A healthy diet and consistent exercise is important for a healthy body.
  • Weight loss
  • Acne treatments
  • Anti-androgens
  • Birth control
  • Fertility treatments
  • Metfomin
  • Laser hair removal
  • Hair growth treatments

Maybe some day there will be even better treatments for PCOS but these are what we have right now. It is important that one works with a doctor to figure out what options are best for them.

In conclusion

From the research that has been done, there are some differences in the way PCOS affects women of different races and ethnic groups. This is due to varying factors. The treatment options, however- are the same.

Hopefully in the future there will be more research done in general on PCOS to improve the lives of all women affected by it.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read this!

Some sources used-

#pcos #race #diversity #ethnicity #pcosawareness #health #womenshealth