Prostate cancer affects one in seven men at some point of their lives, with over 3 million in the United States affected today. In contrast, around half of all men will experience some form of hair loss by the age of 50, often beginning with a receding hairline. But what do these conditions have in common? According to a new study, they might be linked.
A connection between prostate cancer and baldness has been suspected for some time. Not only are both conditions often associated with aging, but patients also typically have a family history of the condition. Furthermore, a hormone derived from testosterone affects the development of both. To test the connection, a research team tested 39,070 men with no history of cancer beyond non-melanoma skin cancer. More than half of the participants reported that they had begun to experience some degree of hair loss by age 45. As the team reported in an article published by the Journal of Clinical Oncology, 1,138 of these men were diagnosed with prostate cancer three years later. While no link was found between typical hair loss and prostate cancer, patients who had experienced male-pattern baldness were 39% more likely to have developed an aggressive case of the cancer than men who had not experienced hair loss.
Male-pattern baldness, also called androgenetic alopecia, is the most common type of extensive hair loss. Characterized by baldness on the top of the scalp with thinning hair on the sides, the study suggests that the younger a man is when he starts experiencing male pattern baldness, the more likely he is to develop prostate cancer.
Hair loss can be caused by a number of factors beyond genetic predisposition, including stress and illness. These cases of hair loss, as well as male pattern baldness, are commonly treated by dermatologists to improve the condition of the scalp and promote healthy hair growth.
Despite the seemingly dire suggestions of the study, the research does seem to have some potentially-misleading factors: for example, the dates of the men’s hair loss was based on the men’s recollections rather than concrete data, and most of the men were white. Connections between hair loss at other ages to prostate cancer was not tested. In order to further prove the data, therefore, scientists will likely need to conduct further, possibly long-term studies.