OBJECTIVE: To determine the prevalence of the poly- cystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) among women seeking electrology, clients presenting to nine electrology centers completed a questionnaire. STUDY DESIGN: Women with potential risk 'factors were referred to the University of Alabama at Birmingham. They underwent a detailed history and physical examination, including hirsutism scoring by a modified Ferriman-Gallwey (F-G) method. Serum was assayed for total testosterone, sex hormone binding globulin and dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate. RESULTS: Three hundred fifteen (40%) of 779 patients had potential risk'factors for hyperandrogenism and were referred. Eighty-two (26%) completed their evaluation. Six were excluded secondary to prepubertal or menopausal status. Of the remaining 76 patients, 20% had F-G scores of 7 or 8, 13% had scores of 9 or 10, and 21% had scores > 10. Forty- nine (64%) patients reported irregular menstrual cycles. Sixty-four patients were not receiving hormonal therapy: 25 reported regular menstrual cycles, and 39 reported irregular cycles. Seventeen (68%) of the 25 had at least one abnormal androgen value, while 33 (85%) of the 39 women had at least one abnormal value (nonsignificant difference). Overall, PCOS was evident in 39 of the 76 women, or 12% of the 315 patients who were referred for further evaluation. CONCLUSION: Thirty-nine of the 315 referred patients (12%) fulfilled the diagnostic criteria 'for PCOS. However, they were not receiving medical care or this condition. In addition, this percentage is a conservative estimate in that 74% of the referred patients did not pursue a medical evaluation. Therefore, efforts to educate both electrologists and their clients of the possibility of underlying endocrine disorders and subsequent metabolic morbidity should be undertaken.