Studies suggest there may be a link between hair loss and prostate cancer

06/02/2016

Diagnosis - Prostate Cancer. Medical Concept on Green Background with Blurred Text and Composition of Pills, Syringe and Stethoscope. Selective Focus.

The results of a recent study suggest that baldness could be linked to cancer. The lead investigator with the study, Dr Michael Cook Phd, from the National Cancer Institute in Bethseda told Renal and Urology News “In the future, patterns and degree of male baldness may play a small role in estimating risk of prostate cancer and may contribute to patient-doctor discussions about whether to opt for prostate cancer screening”.

Latest study

This is the latest study which again tends to heighten the possibility of a link between hair loss and prostate cancer. In this investigation researchers studied records of men who had died from prostate cancer and the extent of baldness in the victims. The data was extracted from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey Follow-up Epidemiological study (1971-1974). They studied the cases of 4,316 men aged between the ages of 25 and 74.

During the 21 years of follow-up there were 3,284 deaths recorded. 107 of those recorded deaths were due to prostate cancer. When those figures were analysed it was found that baldness was associated with a 56% higher risk of fatal prostate cancer. To ensure that the results took into account all factors and variables, adjustments were made for potential confounders such as age, race, and body mass index.

Clearly there are different degrees of hair loss. Moderate balding, defined as observable baldness by a dermatologist at baseline, was associated with an 83% increased risk. Patterned hair loss was not associated with all-cause mortality.

In summarising their findings, the researchers concluded that prostate cancer and androgenic alopecia (or male pattern baldness) have overlapping pathophysiological mechanisms from heritable factors and endogenous hormones; both hair follicles prostate glands are androgen responsive.

Previous studies

The new study supports two earlier investigations. In a paper published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology Dr Cook found that in comparison to absence of baldness, frontal plus moderate vertex baldness at age 45 was associated with a 39% increase in prostate cancer. According to a report in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention, researchers found that in a screening of 4,421 men aged between 25 and 75, male pattern baldness or androgenic alopecia was associated with a 50% increased relative risk of prostate cancer.

However, there is a rider here. There have been other studies (even led by Dr Cook) where the results do not support the link between hair loss and cancer. The authors of the report also make it clear that the findings do not currently support the use of male pattern baldness in prostate cancer screening. Dr Cook also wants to make sure that men who are balding do not worry about these findings as the overall percentage is small. He said “Men with any degree of baldness should not be additionally concerned about their individual risk of developing, or dying from, prostate cancer”.

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