STUDY QUESTION Can cluster analysis be used to differentiate between normo-ovulatory women with normal ovaries and normo-ovulatory women with polycystic ovarian morphology (PCOM) in a non-subjective manner? SUMMARY ANSWER Cluster analysis can be used to accurately and non-subjectively differentiate between normo-ovulatory women with normal ovaries and normo-ovulatory women with PCOM. WHAT IS KNOWN ALREADY Currently, PCOM is diagnosed using a fixed threshold level, i.e. 12 or more follicles per ovary, and is one of the diagnostic criteria of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). However, PCOM is also encountered in normo-ovulatory women, suggesting that it could just represent a normal variant. On the other hand, recent studies have shown subtle endocrine abnormalities in women with isolated PCOM that resemble those found in women with PCOS. Because of the strong correlation between anti-Müllerian hormone (AMH) and follicle number, a high serum AMH level has been proposed as a surrogate marker for PCOM and could, therefore, be integrated in the diagnostic classifications for PCOS. STUDY DESIGN, SIZE, DURATION This was a retrospective observational cohort study. Original cohorts had been recruited for previous studies between 1998 and 2010. Two hundred ninety-seven regularly cycling women and 700 women with PCOS were eligible for inclusion. PARTICIPANTS/MATERIALS, SETTING, METHODS Cluster analysis was performed in 297 regularly cycling women. After exclusion of 'PCOM' clusters, each 'non-PCOM' cluster (young, n = 118 and old, n = 100) was included in the construction of a receiver operating characteristics curve to test the diagnostic performance of follicle number per ovary (FNPO) and serum AMH in discriminating similarly aged full-blown PCOS patients (n = 411 and 237, respectively) from normal regularly cycling non-PCOM women. MAIN RESULTS AND ROLE OF CHANCE The optimal number of clusters was four; age was the most important classifying variable, followed by the FNPO and serum AMH. Two distinct clusters of normo-ovulatory women with PCOM were isolated and differed solely by age, i.e. 'young' and 'old'. Both 'PCOM' clusters had their similarly aged counterpart of 'non-PCOM' clusters. Likewise, two clusters comprised women younger than 30 years, with (n = 28, 'PCOM regularly cycling women') or without (n = 118, 'normal regularly cycling women') features of PCOM (increased FNPO and/or serum AMH). The two other clusters in older women could be labelled 'normal regularly cycling women' or 'PCOM regularly cycling women' (n = 100 and 51, respectively). The prevalence of PCOM was significantly greater in old than in young regularly cycling women controls. In the young population, after exclusion of the 'PCOM regularly cycling women', the diagnostic performance of AMH, expressed by area under the curve (AUC) (AUC = 0.903; CI (0.876-0.930)) to differentiate PCOS women from normal regularly cycling women was similar to that using the FNPO (AUC = 0.915, CI (0.891-0.940)) (P = 0.25), confirming results from earlier studies. In the old population, the diagnostic performance of AMH was greater than that of FNPO (AUCs = 0.948 (0.927-0.970) vs 0.874 (0.836-0.912), respectively, P = 0.00035). Cut-off levels of AMH and antral follicle count distinguishing regularly cycling non-PCOM women from PCOS women were higher in young women than in older women. LIMITATIONS, REASONS FOR CAUTION Data of normal women were obtained from earlier studies, aiming to measure normal endocrine values. Apparently, the strong effect of age in cluster analysis revealed a dichotomy in the age distribution among the cohort of regularly cycling women included. This was involuntary since in none of the original studies, eligibility was limited by age and there was considerable overlap in age ranges of the cohorts. Transvaginal ultrasound was performed using a 6.5-8 mHz probe and our data confirm that this threshold level for FNPO is still valid if using such probe frequencies, although the use of devices with a maximum frequency lower than 8 mHz has become obsolete. Obviously, newer ultrasound scanner using higher transducer frequency will facilitate the detection of more follicles. WIDER IMPLICATIONS OF THE FINDINGS Our data support the use of AMH as a surrogate for ultrasound to define PCOM, which is one of the three items of the Rotterdam classification. They also show that age should be taken into account to define the optimal threshold. The fact that the prevalence of PCOM was increased in the older regularly cycling women, may be due to 'attenuated' PCOS, a phenomenon that has been described in ageing women with PCOS. These women might have had anovulatory cycles in the past and have become ovulatory with increasing age, and were, therefore, eligible for this study. However, since most women included at older age have had spontaneous pregnancies in the past, PCOM at older age may be associated with a subclinical form of PCOS, which may also be present in young regularly cycling women. STUDY FUNDING/COMPETING INTEREST(S) No funding was received for this study. J.S.E.L. has received grants and support from Ferring, MSD, Organon, Merck-Serono, Schering Plough and Serono during recruitment and analysis of data for this study. S.L.F., A.D. and D.D. do not have any conflict of interest.

Additional Metadata
Keywords anti-Müllerian hormone, cluster analysis, PCOS, polycystic ovarian morphology, threshold level
Persistent URL dx.doi.org/10.1093/humrep/dex226, hdl.handle.net/1765/101623
Journal Human Reproduction
Citation
Lie Fong, S, Laven, J.S.E, Duhamel, A, & Dewailly, D. (2017). Polycystic ovarian morphology and the diagnosis of polycystic ovary syndrome: Redefining threshold levels for follicle count and serum anti-Müllerian hormone using cluster analysis. Human Reproduction, 32(8), 1723–1731. doi:10.1093/humrep/dex226