In 2011, there were an estimated 2,707,821 men living with prostate cancer in the United States according to the National Cancer Institute. Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer among men and now, new research is suggesting that there may be a correlation between this prevalent cancer and a certain pattern of hair loss.
A recent study published in in the Journal of Clinical Oncology reports that men with male pattern baldness at age 45 have a 40% increased risk of developing aggressive prostate cancer later in life, as opposed to 45-year-old men with no hair loss. Male pattern baldness, also known as androgenic alopecia, is a hereditary hair loss condition responsible for 90% of all hair loss in men. The study found an increased risk only in men with baldness at the front and moderate hair-thinning on the crown of the head, at the age of 45.
Related: Understanding Men’s Hair Loss
This finding supports earlier research suggesting a link between prostate cancer and male pattern baldness. Why might this be? Male pattern baldness and prostate cancer are both associated with male hormones— specifically, an increase in androgens (male sex hormones) and androgen receptors.
“There is increasingly persuasive evidence of a link between certain types of male pattern baldness and more aggressive prostate cancer,” says Hair Club affiliated physician Jonathan Ballon, M.D. “This is not unexpected, since both male pattern hair loss and prostate cancer are mediated by dihydrotestosterone, or DHT. Bald men have inherited one or more genes which are responsible for higher levels of both DHT and DHT receptors in both the scalp and the prostate.”
More Research is Necessary
Fortunately, the researchers did not find any significant links between prostate cancer risk and other types of hair loss. And while all signs point to a relationship between male pattern baldness and prostate cancer, professionals say it’s too early to officially consider hair loss a risk factor for prostate cancer and more research is necessary. “While our data show a strong possibility for a link between the development of baldness and aggressive prostate cancer, it’s too soon to apply these findings to patient care,” said senior study author Michael B. Cook, PhD, an investigator in the Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics at the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, MD.
Depending on future research, medical assessment of baldness could possibly be used to help identify men who may be at risk of developing aggressive prostate cancer.
“Previous research linking baldness and prostate cancer has been inconclusive, but this large study suggests a significant link between high risk prostate cancer and hair loss—and suggests that men with hair loss may need to be followed more closely. More evidence is needed, however, before we can routinely consider baldness in prostate cancer screening recommendations,” stated Charles Ryan, MD, American Society of Clinical Oncology Expert.