Research suggests that women who inherit an obesity gene are at greater risk of developing polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).
According to a study by scientists from the Oxford Centre for Diabetes, Endocrinology and Metabolism at the University of Oxford and Imperial College London, women who have the FTO gene are also at higher risk of PCOS, which is tiny cysts on the ovaries and is a leading causing of infertility.
The research. which looked at 463 patients with PCOS compared with a group of 1,336 healthy women, is the first to find a genetic link between obesity and PCOS.
It had previously been thought that women who are obese are also more likely to have PCOS, but this study confirms a genetic link between the two conditions.
Dr Tom Barber, who led the study, said: "Polycystic ovary syndrome is a genetic condition and one that is strongly associated with obesity; it is therefore of huge relevance for women, given today's obesity epidemic.
"Our research shows that a variant of the FTO gene that has previously been shown to be associated with obesity also influences susceptibility to polycystic ovary syndrome."
It is hoped that further research will be done to look at the underlying mechanisms of PCOS and how the condition develops, leading to future therapeutic developments for women with the condition.