BACKGROUND: Women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) have a greater clustering of cardiac risk factors. However, the link between PCOS and cardiovascular (CV) disease is incompletely described. OBJECTIVE: The aim of this analysis was to evaluate the risk of CV events in 390 postmenopausal women enrolled in the National Institutes of Health-National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NIH-NHLBI) sponsored Women's Ischemia Syndrome Evaluation (WISE) study according to clinical features of PCOS. METHODS: A total of 104 women had clinical features of PCOS defined by a premenopausal history of irregular menses and current biochemical evidence of hyperandrogenemia. Hyperandrogenemia was defined as the top quartile of androstenedione (> or = 701 pg/ml), testosterone (> or = 30.9 ng/dl), or free testosterone (> or = 4.5 pg/ml). Cox proportional hazard model was fit to estimate CV death or myocardial infarction (n = 55). RESULTS: Women with clinical features of PCOS were more often diabetic (P < 0.0001), obese (P = 0.005), had the metabolic syndrome (P < 0.0001), and had more angiographic coronary artery disease (CAD) (P = 0.04) compared to women without clinical features of PCOS. Cumulative 5-yr CV event-free survival was 78.9% for women with clinical features of PCOS (n = 104) vs. 88.7% for women without clinical features of PCOS (n = 286) (P = 0.006). PCOS remained a significant predictor (P < 0.01) in prognostic models including diabetes, waist circumference, hypertension, and angiographic CAD as covariates. CONCLUSION: Among postmenopausal women evaluated for suspected ischemia, clinical features of PCOS are associated with more angiographic CAD and worsening CV event-free survival. Identification of postmenopausal women with clinical features of PCOS may provide an opportunity for risk factor intervention for the prevention of CAD and CV events.