Screening for Cushing's syndrome in obese women with and without polycystic ovary syndrome

P. Putignano, M. Bertolini, M. Losa, Francesco Cavagnini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Obesity and insulin resistance, menstrual abnormalities and clinical and biochemical signs of hyperandrogenism are common features in women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and Cushing's syndrome (CS). Further, an overdrive of the pituitary-adrenal axis has been documented in PCOS and this condition is often present in women with CS. For this reason, screening for hypercortisolism is often needed in obese women with polycystic ovaries. The aim of this study was to compare the diagnostic value of different screening tests for CS in a population of obese premenopausal women with PCOS and without PCOS (OB) and in a group of patients with CS. We reviewed retrospectively the case records of 117 obese women of reproductive age (60 PCOS and 57 OB, BMI 25.1-70.1, 13-45 yr) who were screened for CS at our Institution in the years 1995-2001 and turned out to be free of the disease. Data were compared with those of 58 premenopausal obese women with active CS (BMI 25.1-50.2 kg/m2, 18-45 yr). Screening for CS was performed by urinary free cortisol (UFC) (three consecutive 24-h urine collections), cortisol circadian rhythm (blood samples taken at 08:00-17:00-24:00 h), and 1 mg overnight dexamethasone suppression test (DST). A 24:00 h plasma cortisol (MNC) of 207 nmol/l, a UFC of 221 nmol/day and plasma cortisol after DST of 50 nmol/l and 138 nmol/l were taken as cut-off values for the diagnosis of CS. As expected, patients with CS showed elevated basal and post-dexamethasone plasma cortisol and UFC levels (p

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)539-544
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Endocrinological Investigation
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2003


  • Cushing's syndrome
  • Dexamethasone suppression test
  • Midnight plasma cortisol
  • Polycystyc ovary syndrome
  • Urinary free cortisol

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology


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