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Stein and Leventhal: 80 years on

Published:December 16, 2015DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ajog.2015.12.013
      Eighty years ago a publication in the Journal proved to be seminal and transformative. The report by Irving Freiler Stein and Michael Leventhal titled, “Amenorrhea associated with polycystic ovaries,” has proven to be a remarkably lasting and influential publication. The growth in related literature has been increasing exponentially: the 50 years between 1950 and 2000 saw a little more than 8000 publications on the topic, whereas the 15 year period between 2001 and 2015 (so far) has seen more than 20,000 related publications, a greater than 8-fold increase in the publication rate after 2000. As we commemorate the 80th anniversary year of the publication of the report by Stein and Leventhal, it is important to ask ourselves, “Was this publication truly as seminal as it is generally assumed to be? And why did it gain such a strong foothold on the medical psyche?” To the first question, a review of the antecedent medical literature makes it clear that the report of Drs Stein and Leventhal in 1935, although not flawless, was both seminal and transformative. In fact, it was the first report to describe a series of patients, rather than isolated cases, who demonstrated the triad of polycystic ovaries, hirsutism, and oligo/amenorrhea, connecting what had previously been disparate features of polycystic ovaries and menorrhagia, and hirsutism and oligo/amenorrhea. Second, the facts that Dr Stein and his collaborators were relatively prolific writers, consistent and clear in their message and descriptions; that a possible therapy (bilateral ovarian wedge resection) had been conveniently included in the report; and that the disorder was (is) relatively prevalent, permitted what would eventually be called the Stein-Leventhal syndrome to gain a strong foothold in contemporary medical practice. Overall, we in the field of medicine have much to celebrate, as we commemorate the 80th anniversary of the publication of the report by Stein and Leventhal in 1935, for a new disorder was described, one that we know today affects, in its various forms, 1 in every 7-17 women worldwide.

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