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Study Links Early Hair Loss to Risk of Prostate Cancer
A new study published in Annals of Oncology found that men who begin to lose their hair by 20 are at an increased risk of developing prostate cancer later. The study looked at 388 men currently under treatment for prostate cancer and compared them to a control group of 281 healthy men. The French researchers found that men who developed the cancer were 2 times more likely to have started losing hair when they were 20 years old.
The study also found that men who began losing hair when they were older, around 30 or 40 for example, had no increased risk of developing the cancer compared to the men in the control group. There was also no association found between men experiencing early hair loss and an earlier than typical diagnosis of prostate cancer. It’s also important to note there was no link between cancer development and the pattern of the hair loss.
This is the first study ever performed that actually finds a link between early balding and prostate cancer later in life, as there has been quite a bit of conflicting research until now.
According to Professor Philippe Giraud, who led the study, there is nothing to show now that men who began losing hair early could benefit from early prostate cancer screening. Still, it’s important to identify those at high risk of developing the deadly cancer so they can be targeted for screening tests and anti-androgenic drugs like finasteride, which are a prostate cancer treatment that’s an alternative to chemotherapy. Premature balding could be an easy way to identify men at risk for later development of prostate cancer.
During the study, men were asked to fill out a questionnaire about personal history of prostate cancer and to demonstrate using pictures any types of balding patterns they experienced at age 20, 30 and 40. The pictures demonstrated 4 stages of baldness, including stage I, or no hair loss; frontal hair loss, with a receding hairline at the temples; vertex hair loss, which is a patch of baldness at the top; and a combination of both types, or stage IV. The men’s physicians also provided medical histories including any diagnosis of prostate cancer, the age at diagnosis, the stage of the cancer and any treatments received. The study ran for 28 full months and the men who had prostate cancer received their diagnosis between 46 and 84.
Of the men who experienced early hair loss by 20, only 3 had stage III hair loss and none had stage IV hair loss, although data has shown that any stage II-IV balding, which occurred in 37 cases and 14 in the control group, came with a double the risk of prostate cancer later. This increased risk of prostate cancer disappeared for men who experienced hair loss at 30 and 40.
There was no pattern found between the type of hair loss and the cancer, although researchers say that may be due to the low number of the stage III to IV hair loss at an early age in the study. While the link isn’t fully understood, the research may at least be used to help screen men who may be at an increased risk of the cancer later in life and provide early treatment for improved results.
What are Anti-Androgenic Drugs?
Anti-androgenic drugs have become a popular way to treat baldness. Androgenic alopecia, or male pattern baldness, affects up to half of all men at some point in their lives. There has already been research that links male baldness to androgenic hormones produced by the body, and these hormones also play some role in the development of prostate cancer. Anti-androgenic drugs like finasteride work by blocking testosterone from converting to a type of angrogen called dihydrotestosterone, which is believed to cause some hair loss. The drug is commonly prescribed to treat hair loss, although it’s also been proven to reduce the incidence of prostate cancer.