Science-- there's something for everyone

Monday, February 28, 2011

Double whammy from early balding

Male pattern baldness, or androgenic alopecia, affects about 50% of all men. A subset of these men began to lose their hair as early as twenty years old. To add injury to insult, those same men who went bald early are the most likely to later develop prostate cancer.

Baldness and prostate cancer were both known to be linked to male hormones called androgens, implying a possible connection. To find that association, Philippe Giraud led a team of French oncologists in comparing prostate cancer rates in differently-haired men. Out of a pool of 669 subjects who were asked about their hair loss, 388 had a history of prostate cancer. Those men who had begun to lose their hair at age 20 were twice as likely to have prostate cancer as those who lost their hair later in life, or who did not have androgenic alopecia.

The researchers noted that the time of detection and the progression of the cancer did not differ between the early and late hair losers. In other words, beginning to go bald at age 20 was a strong indicator that a person would someday get prostate cancer, but did not indicate when the cancer would develop or how aggressive the tumor would be. It does suggest that early balders should begin prostate cancer screening at an earlier age.