Perfluorinated alkyl acids in the serum and follicular fluid of UK women with and without polycystic ovarian syndrome undergoing fertility treatment and associations with hormonal and metabolic parameters

A. L. Heffernan, T. K. Cunningham, D. S. Drage, L. L. Aylward, K. Thompson, S. Vijayasarathy, J. F. Mueller, Stephen Atkin, T. Sathyapalan

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2 Citations (Scopus)


Women with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) undergoing treatment for infertility could be a sensitive subpopulation for endocrine effects of exposure to perfluorinated alkyl acids (PFAAs), persistent organic pollutants with potential endocrine activity. Women with, PCOS (n = 30) and age- and BMI-matched controls (n = 29) were recruited from a UK fertility clinic in 2015. Paired serum and follicular fluid samples were collected and analysed for 13 PFAAs. Sex steroid and thyroid hormones, and metabolic markers were measured and assessed for associations with serum PFAAs. Four PFAAs were detected in all serum and follicular fluid samples and concentrations in the two matrices were highly correlated (R2 > 0.95): perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), perfluorohexane sulfonate (PFHxS), and perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA). Serum PFOS was positively associated with age (1 ng/mL per yr, p < 0.05) and was higher in PCOS cases than controls (geometric mean [GM] 3.9 vs. 3.1 ng/mL, p < 0.05) and in women with irregular vs. regular menstrual cycles (GM 3.9 vs. 3.0 ng/mL, p = 0.01). After adjustment for confounders, serum testosterone was significantly associated with PFOA, PFHxS, PFNA, and the molar sum of the four frequently detected serum PFAAs (approximately 50 percent increase per ln-unit) among controls but not PCOS cases. HbA1c in PCOS cases was inversely associated with serum PFOA, PFHxs, and sum of PFAAs (2–3 mmol/mol per ln-unit). In controls, fasting glucose was positively associated with serum PFOA and sum of PFAAs (0.25 nmol/L per ln-unit increase in PFAAs). Few other associations were observed. The analyses and findings here should be considered exploratory in light of the relatively small sample sizes and large number of statistical comparisons conducted. However, the data do not suggest increased sensitivity to potential endocrine effects of PFAAs in PCOS patients.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1068-1075
Number of pages8
JournalInternational Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2018



  • Endocrine disrupting chemicals
  • IVF
  • PCOS
  • Perfluorinated alkyl acids
  • PFAA
  • PFHxS
  • PFNA
  • PFOA
  • PFOS
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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