The Association of Hispanic Ethnicity with Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease in Polycystic Ovary Syndrome

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Monika Sarkar
Norah Terrault
Phyllis Tien
Marcelle Cedars
Heather Huddleston


Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) affects 10-15% of reproductive age women and is a recognized risk factor for hepatic steatosis, a form of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). The more severe form of NAFLD, known as nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), results in liver inflammation, and is now a leading cause of cirrhosis. Ethnic differences are apparent in NAFLD, with higher prevalence in Hispanics, although the role of Hispanic ethnicity on risk for NAFLD/NASH in women with PCOS is not known. Objective: The aim of this study was to evaluate ethnic differences in the prevalence and risk of NAFLD in women with PCOS. Study Design: Among PCOS women followed in a large academic medical center the association of Hispanic ethnicity with elevated biomarkers of NASH, including plasma cytokeratin 18 (CK18) M30 fragments and/or ALT levels (n=303), was assessed. Prevalence of hepatic steatosis by Controlled Attenuation Parameter (CAP) imaging was evaluated in a subset of PCOS women (n=35). Results: The median cohort age (n=303) was 28 years (IQR 8), and 15.5% (n=47) were Hispanic, the majority of whom reported white race (94%). Most Hispanic women had hepatic steatosis on imaging, which was markedly higher than in non-Hispanics (83% vs 24%, p=0.005). Approximately 17% of PCOS women had elevated ALT or elevated CK18, which was more common in Hispanics than non-Hispanics, at 34% vs 14%, respectively, p=0.002. On univariate analysis, Hispanic ethnicity was associated with two-fold higher odds of NASH (OR 2.0, 95% CI 1.0-3.9, p=0.038), and the association persisted after adjustment for HOMA-IR and waist circumference (AOR 3.1, 95% CI 1.1-8.9, p=0.034). Conclusion: NAFLD/NASH is an important condition to be considered by PCOS providers and Hispanic women with PCOS are a particularly high-risk group that may warrant routine screening.


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